Review: The Dream Walker (Angels & Airwaves)

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Perhaps the best word to describe frontman Tom DeLonge’s approach to Angels & Airwaves is “delusions of grandeur”. He once claimed that the band’s first album would be “the best music in decades”, a statement he later retracted, citing painkiller addiction as the reason he oversold the band’s first effort.

The last two years have been a turbulent time for the Californian band, with seemingly endless line-up changes and an unfortunate delay for their much anticipated fifth effort. Finally The Dream Walker is here and it’s not only the band’s best effort to date but arguable one of the year’s strongest LPs.

Angels & Airwaves have always been DeLonge’s band – it’s predominantly his project, and his bandmates just provide influence. His personal efforts definitely show though here, in what is easily his best work since Blink-182’s eponymous 2003 album. DeLonge is long past the point of creating music for financial or popularity gain; The Dream Walker is a labour of love.

Album openers don’t get much more impactful than ‘Teenagers and Rituals’, which starts with a lone piano before exploding into the stadium rock that Angels & Airwaves is known and loved for. The album then steers into the pre-released “grad” tracks ‘Paralyzed’ and ‘The Wolfpack’ – both are great songs but they were strange choices for “grad” tracks, as in the grand scale of the album they’re two of the weakest songs. But they’re brilliant, which says a lot about the quality of the rest of the album.

‘Tunnels’ is a wonderfully haunting song, written about the death of DeLonge’s father. It slowly builds, choosing to play its cards relatively close its chest, before ending on one of the album’s strongest choruses. The synth heavy ‘Kiss with a Spell’ follows, a bleak song which has its moment but is probably my least favourite song on the album.

‘Mercenaries’ is already emerging as the fan favourite, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a fast paced song that doesn’t let up except for in the brilliant chorus. ‘Bullets in the Wind’ (another “grad” track) is perhaps the most clichéd song. It’s still excellent (the all too short 3rd verse is one of my favourite parts of the whole album) but its repetitive chorus lets it down slightly.

On an album that is markedly different from Angels & Airwaves’ normal sound, ‘The Disease’ feels like a throwback to the band’s past, featuring the spacey vibe that they became known for. The chorus drags on a little too long and there’s some questionable lyrics (“I reach for you/deep inside” – urgh), but it’s not awful by any stretch. None of the album is, but it’s the only song that I didn’t want to immediately replay. ‘Tremors’ took me a few listens to really get into but now that I have, it’s quickly becoming a highlight; like most of the album it perfectly builds, keeping pace throughout the song but not feeling exhausting.

The final song on the album is ‘Anomaly’, and it really is an anomaly when compared with the rest of The Dream Walker. If ‘Teenagers and Rituals’ is the perfect album opener then “Anomaly” is the perfect closer, being vastly different from anything Angels & Airwaves have ever done (it does share some resemblance to Blink-182’s ‘Boxing Day’, which is always good). It’s an acoustic folk song with wonderfully earnest lyrics (“I never wanted to live my life without you/I never wanted to coast”), and manages to feel both innocent and beautifully truthful.

The Dream Walker is a slightly shorter album than normal, coming in at ten tracks. This allows for a consistent quality; there’s not really any filler here. It feels like every song came naturally and no track was forced to make up the numbers (or to be sold in a deluxe edition, a frustrating and cynical trend in the music industry that is becoming more and more frequent). The Dream Walker is Angels & Airwaves’ best album, which considering some of their past work (We Don’t Need to Whisper and I-Empire being the standouts) is a real achievement. If you’ve never experienced the joys of Angels & Airwaves, now’s the time to jump on board.

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