Maybe the self titled album saw blink being in a toxic relationship as well but all three were invested in making it the greatest record possible. And this for me is the main difference. They seemingly weren't aiming for anything with neighborhoods, had little to no vision and just released it because they had to. Tom was kind of in, enthusiastic from time to time, but he had a million things going on and clearly blink was not a 100% priority. By 2011 he was out of ideas and mana musically, I think, based on what he released with AVA too. Mark tried to keep blink being blink but can't do it without Tom. Travis does what he does (seen this expression here and there on the boards), will always get the job done, but needs the other two. Tom is the only one believing he can carry blink along but in reality cannot because he is not committed and the other two will not let him be a dictator (rightfully so).
A producer would have helped immensely because Tom would've been a counterweight to Mark's more agreeing nature and acceptance of ideas (see Feldy), and would never be up for something he does not approve of. Which can be a good thing because, honestly, I cannot see Tom living with a lot of stuff that Feldy passed through on California. Stuff, which in the end, sacrificed blink's uniqueness.