1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 252

When Your Heart Stops Beating, by +44
Suggested by Daniel Lettin

I work for an international company. A small part of my job requires contacting colleagues in Denmark, Germany or Sweden to discus vagaries of milk transportation and disposals.

It’s a sufficiently small part of my job that, whenever I come to call these colleagues, I invariably forget the protocol for dialling out to foreign lands. The international dialling code for Germany is what… +49? Or is that Sweden? Denmark’s is +45, which I remember because it’s UK+1, because the UK is +44.

I get confused when calling from mobile phones to international numbers. Using Denmark’s +45, do I actually have to use ‘plus’ or will a zero suffice? Also, when dialling a mobile number in Denmark, does the +45 replace the first zero in the number, or should that number be included? At least forty percent of my outgoing calls are initially rejected because I’ve entered an incorrect number of digits.

So if you name your band after something that causes me low-level irritation at least once a month, as +44 have chosen to do today, you’re starting behind the eight-ball.

As we’ve established, +44 are named after the international dialling code for the UK. It’s surprising, then, to discover that they are an American band, who chose their name because they were in London when they formed. They’re an alleged “supergroup” made up of the vocalist and drummer from Blink-182, alongside members of The Nervous Return and Mercy Killers. At this point, I’d say something pithy about manning your “super” group with one famous band and a couple of ‘who-the-hell-are-you’ acts, but this project has taught me the limits of my own knowledge so I’m remain silent.

Formed from the remnants of Blink-182’s split, and playing until Blink-182’s resurrection, it’s no surprise that +44 borrow heavily from the light pop-punk Blink-182 sound. It’s the same old alt rock you’ve heard countless times before, with jangling guitar, reedy vocals, steady drums and workaday bass. There’s one definite difference, however: a nod towards electronica adding a fresh layer to an otherwise moribund sound. Sadly, it’s only a thin sheen, a dab of supplementary oil to grease the wheels of the Pop Punk Express. Their original band concept was far more electronic, featuring vocals from Carol Heller of the female punk quartet Get the Girl, and frankly that sounds far more exciting than what we’ve got.

It’s not bad, mind. It’s just the same as countless others, nothing exciting or new, a tried and tested formula that’s played to death at countless university dorm parties across the world. It’s polished, and assured, but smooth and without a spiky element. The songs are fine, if a touch too emo for my lyrical tastes. Some deal in oblique (and not-so-oblique) references to the acrimony behind Blink-182’s split, such as the dark and hollow Lycanthrope, or my standout track No It Isn’t, named to deflect the obvious question from fans upon hearing it: “is this song about Blink-182?”

Thankfully for my office life, the global situation means fewer hours on the phone and more hours on Zoom. And thankfully for +44, Blink-182 put aside their differences and re-entered the game. When Your Heart Stops Beating gets a lukewarm 5/10… if your band would rather be playing in Blink-182, your audience would rather be listening to them.

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