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+44

Interscope

There is nothing funny in When Your Heart Stops Beating’s 12 tracks, and there clearly isn’t meant to be. Which is odd when you consider +44’s best-known members, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker, used to be in Blink-182, a group known for album titles such as Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and videos where they dressed like the Bee Gees. But while fellow former Blinker Tom DeLonge’s Angels and Airwaves aims for unreachable heights with self-important lyrics, guitar parts stolen from U2, and bad electronica, +44 aims to continue the dark, introspective reimagining of pop-punk that Blink hit on with its eponymous 2003 final album, which was full of songs about war survivors and moms running from abusive boyfriends and even featured a cameo from the patron saint of depression, the Cure’s Robert Smith. Hoppus doesn’t lose any time revealing the album’s moodiness, opening by moaning, “I wake up at the end of a long, dark, lonely year” with barely a hint of the pop-punk nasalness that characterized his singing in his old band. When Your Heart Stops Beating pulls the listeners into its depths gradually, moving from Hoppus feeling like he’s living “in the mouth of a gun” in “Lycanthrope” to “Baby Come On,” a song about an alcoholic girl that resonates with anyone with a friend who looks at their evenings through the bottom of a pint glass. But Hoppus hasn’t lost his gift for singalong choruses, as evidenced by the thumping “Cliff-diving,” the revved-up title track, and the obscenely infectious “155,” which is driven by the intricate guitar work of Craig Fairbaugh, former touring guitarist for the Transplants, and Shane Gallagher, guitarist of the Nervous Return. “Let’s slit our wrists and burn down something beautiful,” sings Hoppus in “No, It Isn’t,” his most overt kiss-off to DeLonge. “So please understand/This isn’t just goodbye/This is I can’t stand you.” The song also makes a point of replacing Blink-182’s three-chord punk with hushed melodies, intricate guitar parts, and Barker’s precise drumming. For those still mourning the loss of Blink-182, When Your Heart Stops Beating makes a solid argument that sincerity is imperative, but good songwriting is nearly as important.—Emily Zemler