Tom DeLonge has a lot of love in his heart. Why else would he release Angels & Airwaves’ new album Love for free? Thankfully for him, the album doesn’t set itself up for “good thing it was free, it’s not worth any money anyway”-type jokes that would otherwise plague some of its reviews.
Angels & Airwaves has always been DeLonge’s “serious” project, quite the opposite from his days in Blink-182. Trading in poop and sex jokes and tongue-in-cheek pop punk tunes for lush orchestrations and over-the-top guitar effects, DeLonge has had to endure some criticisms of this sweeping, creatively excessive project. It doesn’t help that he built up hype for the band by repeatedly saying it’s the best thing ever or that he described Love as a mix of U2, Radiohead and Pink Floyd. Yes, it sounds ham-fisted at times and DeLonge has never really been known to have a ‘good’ singing voice, but Angels & Airwaves compensates for that with some rich melodies and a powerful overall atmospheric style.
I’ve always assumed DeLonge created this project in an attempt to make the total opposite of Blink-182. The result is a style that isn’t entirely original, relying on pomposity and a musical self-importance that veers closely to the same style employed by bands like U2, 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse. I’ve joked a few times that AVA, 30 Seconds to Mars and Muse should go on one massive tour together to see who can be more ‘epic’ and ‘life-changing’ than the other. I’m sure that tour would be quite the spectacle.
As for this album: it’s actually pretty good. After an instrumental kicks off the record (Et Ducit Mundum Per Luce, named in Latin because it’s so deep or something), The Flight of Apollo charges forth with a bouncy, energetic guitar riff (something AVA has missed in the past), but not before a minute and a half of DeLonge’s voice muffled by effects and space noises, of course. His voice, as mentioned earlier, has an out-of-breath, over-enunciated sound to it on these songs that was probably intended to sound more dramatic and powerful but instead re-affirms that his voice isn’t one of his best assets.
After the six-minute emotional burst of Apollo ends, Young London picks up out of its wake and bursts with epic-sounding guitar and drums, with Tom singing about “I'm not the one to admit it's helpless. I have a sense that we will be alright…I wish for peace with electric silence to keep our hearts beating on our minds. And we will see that we're all connected when we awake to the tunnel's light”, appropriately puffed-up lyrics about life and existence and peace and war set to such puffed-up, self-indulgent music.
The rest of the songs are more of the same, but that’s not necessarily a dig against the album. Angels & Airwaves, to me, has always been about style over substance, and it shows on Love. Tom, of course, intends for it to resonate with the listener and be the best music ever, but anything that regards itself that important rarely is. Instead, the songs on this album reflect his desire to craft something that isn’t offensive or abrasive, but rather enjoyable to listen to.
Epic Holiday is another highlight, with a good hook and a little more of a rhythmic energy that doesn’t just rely on effects and space noises. Hallucinations, the album’s first single, was a fitting choice, as it’s also a standout on the album.
Overall, Love is a pretty decent album; I’ve never really cared much for Angels & Airwaves, but this time around Tom and friends managed to create an album that I can listen to all the way through without getting excessively bored. I understand why people hate on the band, as everything has a heavy self-importance that borders on arrogance (especially with Tom comparing it to Pink Floyd and Radiohead). It isn’t as good as anything by those bands, of course, but it isn’t totally boring either.
I’m impressed that Love was released totally for free, in the same style that Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have done previously. This will be re-released in a deluxe physical copy too at some point, but I like to see bands release albums for free like this. Granted, everyone can’t do this, and Tom has enough money to hand out music for free, but it’s still a nice gesture.
There is a companion movie also coming out soon, apparently...I can only imagine how grandiose and sprawling that will be, considering it's based on AVA songs and the message behind them all, of hope and love and all that. Wow.
While this isn’t one of my favorite records of recent memory, it should appeal to anyone who likes atmospheric alternative rock, and especially anyone who enjoyed AVA’s previous albums.