Angels & Airwaves 

I-Empire (Suretone/Geffen)


Tom DeLonge's head has been lost in the stars ever since Blink-182 split. The dude used to make videos where he and his bandmates jogged naked through crowded streets. They recorded pun-happy albums like Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. These days, he writes and sings stuff like "There's a little red bridge with a view of the sun with a lake" over riffs that sound like something U2 threw away years ago. On I-Empire, DeLonge steers his new group, Angels & Airwaves, through a set of prog-pop songs that regularly send the pretension meter into the red. Yet he's never sounded more hopeful.

Angels & Airwaves, which bowed last year with the equally bombastic We Don't Need to Whisper, contains all the characteristics of a Grown-Up Project: Songs tip the five-minute mark and have titles like "Star of Bethlehem" and "Rite of Spring," while the whole thing culminates in a sprawling epic called "Heaven."

But even if DeLonge can't stay grounded (just look at the band's moniker), he keeps I-Empire tethered to a love-and-rockets concept that's as naïve as it is ambitious. "Let me feel you/Carry you higher," he sings in "Secret Crowds" over a pulsating track that's as celestial as his goals. That line pretty much sums up Angels & Airwaves: Despite the occasional airheaded sentiments, the music is out of this world.

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