Review Summary: Rivaled only by Minutes to Midnight as the biggest disappointment of 2007, Sum 41 return to the pop punk that got them famous six years ago (albeit with a few more slow tracks). Ultimately it’s average quality – no more, no less.
In at least three ways, 2007 marked somewhat of a “comeback” year to me. Three widely successful rock bands that had lain dormant for three years – Chevelle, Linkin Park and Sum 41 – released new albums. But as most everyone now knows, Vena Sera
was the only respectable one out of the three.
Sum 41’s last album, Chuck
, saw the band actually going somewhere musically. It took the metal influences that were apparent on previous albums and injected them into a somewhat diverse sounding rock effort with an overall quality much better than one would expect. Despite briefly ripping off Metallica (Bitter End=Battery), I really feel it was a good album.
But perhaps because of lead guitarist Dave Baksh’s non-bitter departure (he appears to have been the biggest reason for the metal sound), the band decided to go back to their previous sound of simple, energetic and slightly fun pop punk. In this respect you can’t really call this a letdown, anyone paying attention knew they were going this direction – especially after hearing the title track and March of the Dogs
. Forgive the added background, but I personally used to quite enjoy All Killer No Filler
. Many of you will probably remember that I was actually “digging” this album for a couple weeks. But one has to be realistic – this is average punk rock, plain and simple.
On to the actual music - perhaps the biggest problem comes from Dave Barksh’s departure, because without him, the guitars on here are hardly noteworthy. Deryck barely does a bad
job on his own, it’s just that he doesn’t do much you haven’t heard from, say, Good Charlotte, Blink 182, or maybe even Simple Plan. Most of the riffs here consist of either simple chord progressions or quick paced power chords, and in the end they’re quite boring. There are, however, some good leads (see The Jester
) and a decent solo halfway through Pull the Curtain
As a vocalist, Deryck Whibley’s better than most of his peers. Instead of the whiney, slightly high-pitched and nasally vocals that seem to plague the genre, his voice is basically a mid-pitched wail that doesn’t need to be tolerated. He knows not to try something like a falsetto, and his shouts and screams found here sound pretty good.
Perhaps the album that Underclass Hero
most resembles musically and lyrically is Rise Against’s The Sufferer and the Witness
. But whereas Tim McIlrath can actually write politically charged lyrics with imagery and metaphors, Whibley’s lyrics fall flat because they’re either plain or sometimes horrible. March of the Dogs
features a bridge where he rhymes words like “dead”, “fled” and “head” rhymed a staggering 8 times in a row, almost ruining what would otherwise me a decent song.
The bass is slightly better than your average album, as it’s actually heard, and contributes to the overall driving feel and fast tempo. Drummer Stevo is still nothing to get excited about; despite a couple semi-interesting fills and beats the guy simply knows what a song requires.
There’s a couple other good things, like the inclusion of piano and strings on select tracks. However, like the album itself, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before and these songs are still quite unoriginal.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this and All Killer, No Filler
(their most similar album) is that they take almost close to no chances musically. The band has returned to what they feel comfortable doing, creating quite catchy and energetic punk. Despite said catchiness, and being far from awful, both albums do absolutely nothing new. Although it’s quite better than Good Charlotte’s and Simple Plan’s latest albums, Sum 41 sadly falls flat as a very forgettable release.
– Despite being a rehash of Fat Lip
’s main riff, rapped verse and catchy chorus, the song is (sadly) a standout on the album.
– Starts out sounding like a ballad, but picks up (around a minute in) with a quick guitar riff. The end result is a mega-catchy song with the best chorus on here.
Count Your Last Blessings
– A slow piano driven verse picks up for one of the most driving songs on here. If you like this music at all, it’s bound to get your head bobbing.