Still living in the shadow of his previous band, multi-platinum pop-punkers Blink 182, Angels and Airwaves front man Tom DeLonge struggles to make a memorable mark with his new band’s second release, “I-Empire.”
From the Cure influence underpinning “Everything’s Magic” to the lyrical corniness of “Breathe”(“I love you/You make me feel alive/and I’ll love you/until the end of time”) to the brief airiness of the strangely titled instrumental “Star of Bethlehem”, DeLonge and company approach the material with slick, workman-like professionalism; the album lacks a distinctive personality.
DeLonge’s lyrics are admirably sincere, but they start to sound like a self-help book. The word “love” comes up a lot, as do recurring images of light bursting through the darkness. The music blends clichéd new wave tropes (synths, Edge-like guitar) and booming — but admittedly catchy — arena-rock choruses, with an obvious effort to avoid distorted guitar crunch. Whereas Blink began as the quintessential bratty punk act and evolved into a (comparatively) more serious mainstream rock act, Angels seem to be stuck in a self-serious rut, and — more distressingly — DeLonge seems to have forgotten how to have fun.