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Angels & Airwaves - I-Empire

Angels & Airwaves, I-Empire

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

FIRST things first, I-Empire – the sophomore album from Tom DeLonge’s new band – isn’t really doing anything different to their 2005 debut We Don’t Need To Whisper. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

By the former Blink-182 frontman’s own admission, both I-Empire and We Don’t Need… are two halves of a double-album concept, so this is the continuation of the saga. And while the debut addressed infinite possibility in the human experience, I-Empire furthers that topic, referencing the idea that the empire that one builds exists within one’s self.

“It’s the way of looking at the world, as the world is yours,” explains DeLonge. And yes, that does sound pretentious.

Fortunately, the album itself isn’t, ranging from expansive, epic compositions to straight-ahead pop-orientated rockers that recall DeLonge’s Blink-182 roots.

Highlights include the euphoric opener Call To Arms, which really sets the template for what to expect courtesy of David Kennedy’s epic guitar riffs and Atom Willard’s pulsating drums. DeLonge’s vocals remain as distinct as ever, injecting that rush of excitement that used to always come with hearing a new Blink-182 record for the first time.

Everything’s Magic is an example of the band charting more pop-laced territory and it’s not one of the better tracks – although the insistent rhythms and the endlessly upbeat nature of the verses do lend it an uplifting quality that eventually sweeps you along with its energy.

Breathe, however, is a slow-builder that starts with a melancholy piano chord that helps to carefully guide the track to its skyscraping finale, while Love Like Rockets is shot through with some pulse-quickening guitar riffs and more of those clattering drum rolls that work so effectively on the Angels & Airwaves format. When DeLonge sings at the top of his voice “I’ll love you until the end” you can imagine hoards of sweaty concert-goers singing along in passionate unison.

Sirens is another that displays a sharper sense of melody and a keen ear for the masses, despite succumbing to cheesy tendencies. It’s a rousing power anthem that effectively marries the wider A&A sound with the youthful exuberance of early DeLonge.

Secret Crowds, meanwhile, suggests another pop anthem before unleashing some power riffs that add some much-needed bite. It’s one of a couple of tracks where Kennedy throws off the shackles and really lets go, delivering some exhilarating guitar solos that are certain to send the live brigade into a frenzy.

Elsewhere, Star Of Bethlehem is another slow-building effort that exhibits some skyscraping tendencies late on, Lifeline fuses a sharp electronic undercurrent with some brooding bass (from ex-30 Seconds To Mars’ Matt Wachter) and Heaven brings down the curtain on the studio material in suitably emphatic fashion (combining everything that has helped to make the album so much fun in the first place).

For added value, there’s a live version of It Hurts recorded at Del Mar that underlines the fact this album doesn’t mark much of a progression. Which it doesn’t. But if, like me, you’re a sucker for the DeLonge sound and can dismiss some of the pretentious musings underpinning some of the songwriting, then you’re in for a really good time.

And kudos too for the artwork on the album – the whole Star Wars design didn’t go unchecked – although any suggestion that I-Empire is to We Don’t Need To Whisper what the Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars will firmly be dismissed!!!

Download picks: Call To Arms, Breathe, Sirens, Secret Crowds, Love Like Rockets, Lifeline

Track listing:

  1. Call To Arms
  2. Everything’s Magic
  3. Breathe
  4. Love Like Rockets
  5. Sirens
  6. Secret Crowds
  7. Star Of Bethlehem
  8. True Love
  9. Lifeline
  10. Jumping Rooftops
  11. Rite Of Spring
  12. Heaven
  13. It Hurts

  1. rite of spriing is one of the best songs on the disc. Yet you didn't say one thing about it. Why?    Nov 13    #
  2. I’ve come to the conclusion this album seems to be a favorite of the listeners, not so much the critics. As someone heavily involved in the music industry for over a decade though I’ve found this to be my favorite album of the year and amazed at the quality of the album and consistency of the tracks. It’s rare that I ever listen to an album right through but I must have listened to this right through at least 7 times in the last 4 days.
    Top quality album for those who like melodic, rocking, energy packed anthems. 5/5

    TN    Nov 28    #