Who hasn't heard of Sum 41? Fat Lip was probably one of the biggest punk-rock singles of 2001. It had it all: Sneering lyrics of rebellion and humor, versus which could have been yanked from Mike D's sock drawer, a memorable chorus which attracted any pop punk fan skeptical of the new incarnation, and a hilarious video to wipe TRL's ass. Nothing Sum 41 has done since has quite compared with the success of Fat Lip - which only means one thing: they've gotten better. Their third release (yes, third - I will never dismiss "Half Hour of Power" as their first album), "Does This Look Infected" showcased Sum 41 putting more metal into the mix. More serious tones led to their pushing of the pop-punk lines to its limits musically. "Still Waiting," was the first single, and the catchiness prevailed. Gone was their smirky rapping and their immaturity only reached their home video collection, yet the MTV crowd picked up over half a million copies to date. Overall, "Infected" was a better album, but Sum 41 was still a work-in-progress.
Now comes "Chuck," a (suprise surprise) politically driven album which stays its ground in its ambiguity. For those of you that enjoy the perks of a backstory to their listening experience: The Canadian pop-punk quartet named their album in honor of United Nations peacekeeper Chuck Pelletier, who escorted Sum 41 safely to a U.N. compound when gunfire erupted outside their hotel during their humanitarian visit to the Congo in late May of 2004. Deryck told Chuck if they made it out alive, they would name the album after him. I'm sure it was inaudible girlish shrieking to Chuck's ears, and he is probably unaware at this time of his tribute, but nonetheless it's a pretty interesting concept. "How is the album, Andrew?" you may ask. "I need your opinion of the album because I cannot rely on the inconsistencies of my own musical tastes, Andrew!" you may declare. Relax...In advance, I give you Sum 41's "Chuck."
1. Intro - Slow guitar chords are strummed while layered with more intricate picking. As much as I would like to grade an intro, I refuse to let the rest of the album sway in my rating by letting a 46 second clip get included. I will incorporate this into "No Reason." So my rating for "Intro" will be declared N/A.
2. No Reason - The intro leads well into hard punching power chords and shouting by Deryck Whibley, "All of us believe/ That this is not up to you/ The fact of the matter is/ That it's up to me." "Hey, hey, hey's" line a decent drum pattern and a rhythm which could definetly be impressive live as well. The song is essentially placing responsibility on the population for making change when things are the way we would like. The chorus, I'll just say, is catchy as all hell. A great intro with nothing but what is expected of a hard rock/pop/metal/punk band like Sum 41. Driving verses build up to a chorus which you're humming to yourself after the first listen regardless of the fact that you can't quite remember the words. Sum 41 in a nutshell, my friends. It's a great song, and perhaps all that it lacks is ingenuity and the extra kick the boys need to progress to the next level. This is only the start of "Chuck," though, and it's quite the start. A-
3. We're All to Blame - The first single off of "Chuck" is an agressive thrash at our own faults for the American tragedy. Impressive approach lyrically, and the change ups from metal riffs and vocals into a soft, slow-tempo chorus. The chorus starts out with a simple guitar effect in parallel with Deryck's vocals into an anthemic, soaring composition of harmonies and rhythm. Extremely catchy, but borderline rip off. If System of a Down's "Chop Suey" had never been released then this could be leaning on originality. The change ups and tempos are very similar toward's Serj's and the boy's first big hit. Aside from these irritations, "We're All to Blame" is a great effort, and deserves its place on "Chuck." B
4. Angels With Dirty Faces - Deryck begins with somber vocals behind slow guitar strumming. Of course, this changes within the first 20 seconds. "Angels" is a song which attacks the corruption within oneself. "Obsession had begun/ Possessed by destruction," Whibley shouts. Short, hard, slightly different from what Sum 41 has done in the past due to the fact that there are quick pauses in which Whibley sings in utter silence for 4 seconds before the Steve-O and Dave pound into another fast-paced section. Much like "Asshole" off of their last album and "Never Wake Up" off its previous, "Angels" is their hard, relentless two minute song which always winds up within the first four tracks of a Sum 41 album. Call it filler, call it a developed pattern, but it manages to stand on its own. B-
5. Some Say - Deryck begins singing with a mid-tempo recording reversed (ala Somewhere I Belong - Linkin Park). When hearing this song, I'm reminded of "Handle This," off of All Killer No Filler. Same rhythm and structure, particularly in the chorus, with a few extra touches such as the verse arrangements. Unique effects and rhythm accompany Deryck's vocals, seperating it from its comparisons to past work. The funny thing is that it's also taking a similar tone lyrically as "Handle This," except instead of the chorus saying "Cause I will bring you down/ I don't wanna miss/ I don't think you can handle this," Sum 41 is declaring, "Think before you make up your mind/ You don't seem to realize/ I can do this on my own." Perhaps Sum could have taken a note from Metallica and called it Handle This 2, but if they did that they would have to call their album "St. Chuck," and actually suck balls. It's risky territory, and I'm ranting way too much. More than filler, less than exceptional, entirely acceptable. B
6. The Bitter End - Great intro. They've really got the metal influence shining through the beginning of this song. Fast foot work by Steve-O compliments the thrashing riffs of Dave. There's even some decent solo work by Dave throughout the entire song. This is a perfect example of why Sum 41 is one of the most popular punk rock bands, yet they are highly underrated. Coming and going before overstaying its welcome, "The Bitter End" grabs a hearty B
7. Open Your Eyes - This song began without taking me off guard. It was almost hard to discern the beginning of this track from a continuation from "The Bitter End," but Sum 41 decided to step it up. Deryck thrusts quick lyrics in a bouncy verse arrangement - almost reminiscent of Fat Lip but much, much harder. The chorus is, of course, simple and catchy enough you can just picture a Deryck Whibley head bouncing along the lyrics in a Karaoke bar. It's a hard-driven catchy peice of work. It's Sum 41. B+
8. Slipping Away - Very interesting and long overdue: Sum 41 has gone acoustic. Deryck's vocals are distorted in the intro which can be best compared to the Deftones. The chorus even bring strings into the picture. Catchy, somber, and it's different to say the least. A great effort by the band, but a little on the short side. Clocking in at about 2:30, the songs ends before it starts. It's as if the boys want to try something soft, but not enough to make a dent in their set list. Based on this song, that's a potential shame. B+
9. I'm Not the One - The verses made me nervous in this song. Deryck's vocals reminded me of the verse of Limp Bizkit's "Nookie," but of course there a driving, punk-like chorus which dismisses any notion of Sum 41 ripping off another genre (slight sarcasm). Decent effort, but nothing to bring up while playing poker with the guys. B-
10. Welcome to Hell - Quick punching song which leans more on the side of some of Sum's punk counterparts like NOFX, Lagwagon, or Pennywise. I was surprised to hear some quick finger-picking by Cone on the bass, and of course it's nice to hear a pure punk effort on this album. Short of noteworthy, yet packs a decent offering into this album. B
11. Peices - Another power ballad by the group. Surprisingly, some of the bands slower efforts on "Chuck," are the ones which have shined the most. "Peices" has some half-assed rhymes in it, but the simplicity of their catchy chorus is more concentrated by a new approach by the band, as well as some decent verses lyrically. Overall a commendable little number. B+
12. There's No Solution - Hearty filler in the guise of Linkin Park's "Numb." C+
13. 88 - Creative change ups and catchy everything. This is a preferred direction for Sum 41. Try and avoid nodding your head at the bridge. They accomplish a mainstream appeal while trying something totally different. Sounds a tad bittersweet, but entirely enjoyable. Great way to end the album, especially due to the jam at the end. This is a song which keeps me buying Sum 41 albums upon each release. A