How do you know that former blink-182 leader Tom DeLonge intends for his post-blink project Angels and Airwaves to be taken seriously? Because throughout their debut album, We Don't Need to Whisper, he relies on sounds and textures borrowed from 1988, the era when college rock was filled with atmospheric sonics and earnest politics. Specifically, he layers delayed guitars ripped from U2 over soundscapes equally inspired by the Cure, New Order, Peter Gabriel, and The Unforgettable Fire, all in an attempt to fashion a modern-day protest record. Lord knows it's an admirable break from his juvenile past, but good intentions don't necessarily make for good music, as We Don't Need to Whisper makes abundantly clear. DeLonge's main problem is that by relying on '80s college rock as his template, he's fallen into a lot of traps that have made albums of that era sound hopelessly dated: overlong intros, lasting upward of 90 seconds; formless songs that never seem to peak, only drift; cold keyboards that work a factory preset too heavily; an over-reliance on delay pedals, not just on the guitars (which never once sound like anybody other than the Edge), but on the keyboards, which has the unfortunate side effect of making the somber "Distraction" sound like an homage to Paul McCartney's gleefully moronic "Wonderful Christmas Time." That's not the only unintentional chuckle here -- DeLonge's thin, nasal voice cuts against the moody murk of his band, as if he were a little kid recording over his big brother's music. It also doesn't help that his screeds about war, society, and life are overly written, with words piling on top of each other in free-form song structures that tend to collapse under the weight of his ambition. Since DeLonge was starting to edge toward an interesting fusion of dark post-punk, tuneful pop-punk, and mature concerns on the last blink-182 album, such an over-reach is a disappointment, but it is understandable; it's a classic case of post-breakup indulgence. It may not make for a successful record, but it does make for an interesting one, particularly in how DeLonge's desire to be taken seriously has led him to use the serious music of his adolescence as a signifier that he's serious now, but We Don't Need to Whisper is too doggedly dour and amorphous to be more than a curiosity.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine