Angels & Airwaves, 'I-Empire' (Suretone/ Geffen)

5
I-Empire
Critical Mass
Label: Suretone/ Geffen

by Mikael Wood

Nothing Tom DeLonge did during his high-flying days with blink-182 suggested he was one for self-flagellation (unless you count, uh, the pleasurable variety). Yet with Angels & Airwaves, the earnest emo-rock band he formed when blink went belly-up, DeLonge is determined to highlight his least attractive qualities: the thinness of his voice and his weakness for half-baked existential nonsense like "Even if your hope has burned with time / Anything that's dead shall be regrown."

I-Empire is definitely an improvement over A&A's 2006 debut, We Don't Need to Whisper. For one thing, it breaks out of the moody midtempo rut that too many pop-punk guys mistake for maturity. (See also last year's debut by +44, the other post-blink emo-rock act, featuring Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker.) Thankfully, DeLonge allows drummer Atom Willard to drive much of the music with vintage Warped Tour zest. And the band swipes from more appealing sources: Instead of cribbing the vocal melody from Toto's "Rosanna" (as DeLonge did on Whisper), Matt Wachter lifts the bass line of "Everything's Magic" from "Close to Me" by the Cure.

But with its abundance of mushy self-help homilies and a seemingly bottomless well of blunted-Edge guitar arpeggios, I-Empire still makes you wonder what constituency DeLonge hopes to attract with such an anti-fun platform. What's his age again? Fifty?

Now Watch This: Angels & Airwaves - "Everything's Magic"

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