Sum 41

Underclass Hero

Written by: PP on 12/08/2007 02:32:33

Sigh. Even though Sum 41 tried hard to convince me that the departure of their lead guitarist Dave Baksh would have no influence on their sound through numerous interviews and Myspace blogs, there's no way around the fact that it did. Everything that was nice about "Chuck", its significantly higher artistic value, and the sound that I attach to Sum 41 as what could've been their signature sound from there on, is gone. You can wave long goodbye to the metallic riffs of "Angels With Dirty Faces" or the textured yells of "No Reason", and every bit of credibility with it. The new album, "Underclass Hero", sounds like "Chuck" and "Does This Look Infected?" never happened. It sounds like time re-winded back to "All Killer No Filler", and "Underclass Hero" would be the follow up to that album.

Unfortunately, a band called Blink 182 grew quiiite a bit bigger since. "Walking Disaster" and "March Of The Dogs", for instance, are about the closest to "Take Off Your Pants & Jacket" I've heard any band sound to date. "Dear Father" takes a shot at the more mature, self-titled Blink era. Even the mighty NOFX gets their share of imitation: There's no way Sum 41 would've thought of "Ma Poubelle", sang entirely in French, if Fat Mike hadn't recorded "Champs Elysee" back in the day. There's just no way Sum 41 could've thought they can get away with such obvious aping of bands much bigger and arguably greater than them.

But artistic integrity aside, the CD isn't as bad as I make it sound. Sum 41 have always been masters of melodic hooks and infectious choruses ("Still Waiting" anyone?), and this album is no exception. The singalongs on the stadium rock geared "With Me" are bound to be massive, I'm sure. When the songs work, like on the title track and "Speak Of The Devil", they nail the whole heavy pop punk style spot on.

Incidentally, there are plenty of instances on the album where it really does work. However, I can't help but think that throughout the album a crucial ingredient is missing. That ingredient is the signature sound, which I thought the band finally developed on "Chuck", after three albums of sounding like Green Day mated with Blink 182. The new album, unfortunately, sways away from anything I'd instantly be able to attach to Sum 41 as their sound. On the micro-level, it's okay because of the awesome, catchy tunes that the radio will play all summer. After all, the kids need a stepping-stone band into punk rock. But on a holistic level, "Underclass Hero" is a giant billboard for smaller bands stating roughly: "Guys, it's okay to copy other bands, as long as you make it sound slick."


Download: March Of The Dogs, Underclass Hero, Walking Disaster
For the fans of: Blink 182, Green Day
Listen: Myspace

Release date 24.07.2007
Island Records

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