As a long time Tom DeLonge connoisseur and vocal impersonator, I was looking forward to the first record that his supergroup, Angels & Airwaves, would put out after a few years of musical inactivity. Although DeLonge seems to break out in hives at the insinuation that Angels & Airwaves is a band (“the brand, not the band” … “Angels & Airwaves is a multimedia project”) – I am going to review them here as though they are a band who have put out an album. Sorry, Tom.
The Dream Walker starts out with the extremely strong track, Teenagers & Rituals. Decidedly Angels & Airwaves, it crescendos into a synth-laden, anthemic song driven by DeLonge’s unmistakable vocals that sets the scene for the rest of the record. Yet I’m still not sold on the out-of-place runs of “BA BA BADADA BA BA DA DADA” - some lyrics here definitely wouldn’t have gone amiss. In fact, unless I’m lacking some finer understanding, the lyrics don’t seem to make any sense at all. Take the chorus, for example:
Lonely, cat-like master, Drive me, take me faster. Eye that side-back alley, Nothing to score, joining the war, and proudly.
At least, I think those are the lyrics – different websites all have their own interpretations, each nonsensical in their own way, and these are the lyrics I got after repeated listens. And no, it doesn’t all come together in context. I thought Angels & Airwaves was supposed to be an art project that tackles larger human themes? At the risk of this being too deep for me, I don’t really see it.
Nonetheless, the album continues strongly with their signature sound shining through. There is a series of tracks that are consistent, energetic, and highly polished, each displaying a certain maturity in song writing, at least on the musical side. Unfortunately, for my listening experience, nothing topped the first track. That said, there is a fair amount of variety. The latter half of the record delves into a more introspective realm, with songs like synth-led Kiss With A Spell, and acoustic Anomaly. These are mixed nicely alongside tracks like Mercenaries that bring a little more DeLonge ‘attitude’. Anomaly is a little too cutesy for my tastes, though as a comedown for the album I suppose it has its place. I just can’t take a song that begins with “Hey you / What’s with those eyes? / Whatcha been thinking?” with any shred of seriousness. Indeed, the most accurate lines remain “These words / They’re no Hemingway / They don’t have any value to any line”. Got that right, Tom.
I keep coming back to this point about the lyrics. Ordinarily, I’m not too fussed with the quality of lyrics (burn the witch!). But with Angels & Airwaves, a project that the band keep claiming is about exploring human themes, tackling problems and so on, I was simply expecting more than nonsensical or banal lyrics, despite that fact that I think the album as a whole actually sounds really quite good. Or maybe that’s the point, and it’s all a parody.
The Dream Walker is an album that will satisfy listeners who are fans of Angels & Airwaves already, but I doubt it will attract many new fans, or launch them to the dizzying heights of acclaim to which they aspire. DeLonge said of their very first album in 2006 that it will be the greatest music revolution in decades, ushering in new eras of youth culture - a statement that was laughable at the time. I’m quite sure (at least hopeful) that the band have reigned in expectations like that, because they quite obviously haven’t made the cut – and who would? Their 2014 release is, in all, a solid album that I’ve been able to listen to over and over again with no issue. But it is marred by poor lyrics, and although it has a lot of potential, it falls short of greatness.