The break-up (OK, indefinite hiatus) of Blink 182 did not put an end to the Mark (Hoppus), Tom (Delonge) and Travis (Barker) Show. It has just mutated. While Blink 182 was still a functioning unit, DeLonge and Barker launched the shortlived Box Car Racer, with a guest appearance by Hoppus. When that concluded, Barker emersed himself in numerous projects, including a stint in the Transplants. Meanwhile DeLonge started Angels and Airwaves (AVA).
Next up was the Barker-Hoppus effort +44. Two guitarists were enlisted, Craig Fairbaugh (ex-Transplants) and Shane Gallagher. In its initial incarnation, the group also had Carol Heller, vocalist with the female Punk band, Get The Girl. She didn't stick around but two tracks ("No, It Isn't" and "Make You Smile") with her vocals did make it on +44's debut album, "When Your Heart Stops Beating."
The propulsive title track, reminiscent of the Blink 182 days, became the group's debut single/video. While shooting the video Barker fractured his right arm. Aside from the intense pain, he was largely unaware there was any serious damage. A European tour was completed before he returned to L.A. and had it looked at. The injury delayed a North American tour but not for long. Barker learned to play not using his right arm. A special set up included electronic "triggers" that, among other things, allowed him to simulate the sound of a snare drum with his left foot.
2006 When Your Heart Stops Beating
"When You Heart Stops Beating" is easily the best post-Blink 182 effort by any ex-member or combination thereof. Not surprisingly, it's also the one that comes closest to Blink 182 both sonically and in attitude. Since DeLonge has shown little or no interest in plying the Blink 182 sound (he hasn't approached it in any of his subsequent projects), it's up to Hoppus and Barker.
Guitars spitting out chords, drums and bass locked on a killer rhythm and vocals filled with anguished alienation drive +44. The album's title track, a power pop single, is a love song with a skewed take on the "til death do us part" theme. It's the most accessible track but "Lycanthrope," "Baby Come On," "Cliffdiving," "Chapter 13" and even "155" with its synth pads, are lean, mean, uptempo songs - +44's core sound.
Heller's contributions hint that +44 originally started in a different direction. These introspective tracks have an airy, open, more relaxed approach. "Make You Smile" is a pleasing, low-key duet. Still, the most impressive moments are when the group pushes things into overdrive.