“The Dreamwalker” is the fifth album by supergroup Angels & Airwaves. Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge is joined by members of Box Car Racer, Nine Inch Nails and Thrice in what DeLonge once described as an “art project”. If you’re expecting early Blink 182’s naughty teenage humour you’ll be surprised: just as that band matured and took on a darker tone, so Angels & Airwaves is a properly grown-up band. With influences like U2, Pink Floyd and Radiohead, they were always going to be a much more serious proposition.
A short film, “Poet Anderson: The Dreamwalker”, released in support of the album and co-directed by DeLonge won Best Animation at the Toronto Short Film Festival 2014; high praise indeed from a nation that all but owns animation as an art form. “The Dreamwalker” is an album that takes its musical and artistic influences and combines them to create a modern work that is clearly channelling much more than the current zeitgeist.
The big piano intro of ‘Teenagers and Rituals’ sets something of a contemplative, almost melancholy tone that underpins much of the album. The U2 influence is there as DeLonge continues his exploration of guitar effects. What is also clear is the driving space rock vibe that is combined with a post rock sound on ‘Paralyzed’. Production is of the wall-of-sound variety that reinforces the intense nature of the song writing. It’s also a work that rewards repeated listens, with substantial amounts of detail hidden within the sonic collage.
‘The Wolfpack’ flirts with electronica, built on a bass riff that would not be out of place alongside Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” and a kind of post rock Blink 182 melody. Perhaps the album’s emotional heart is ‘Tunnels’, a song that speculates on experience at the point of death. Like the rest of the album, it’s moving in a way that so much popular music is not, throwing into sharp relief the contrast between pre-packaged pop, and a band of accomplished musicians that really care about their craft.
‘Kiss With A Spell’ and ‘The Disease’ appear to nod towards The Cure; just as T.S. Eliot used the landscape of poetry to inform ‘The Wasteland’ while still creating a self-contained and original work, so “The Dreamwalker” creates its own musical world while remembering just how important influences and heritage will always be.
As the album comes to a close one is struck by the structural choices that have been made: penultimate song ‘Tremors’ appears to be a perfect closer with its big, sing-along chorus. Instead, however, acoustic song ‘Anomaly’ finishes the album. Like Prospero’s soliloquy at the end of ‘The Tempest’ it brings the listener to a place of resolution after the emotional catharsis of the rest of the album. Emotions cleansed, we arrive at peace and satisfaction. It’s the perfect way to end what is an emotionally affecting, well crafted and very satisfying album.