Review Summary: But still, we're trying one more time
Just so you know
You meant the world to us, I know that it's too late
But all I want's another chance
It takes an overbearing amount of politeness not to bash the post-Chuck
Sum 41 era. Underclass Hero
aimed to create the band’s very own American Idiot
– a political commentary on the Bush white house that didn’t pull any punches and even clamored for the death of the president (a move that led to deportation threats by that administration). Behind all the political noise was a very average pop-rock album that seemed to borrow too much from Green Day and Blink-182 styled balladry instead of chasing the aggressive edge that fans of Chuck
celebrated. Screaming Bloody Murder
saw the band hit rock bottom with an utterly forgettable record that was just as futile as Underclass Hero
, but lacked the melodies and controversy to boot. A five year absence saw the group return with 2016’s 13 Voices
, a respectable but unmemorable exercise in rudimentary punk rock that failed to capitalize on the obvious thematic goldmine that was Trump’s election year; a shocking dismissal by the leftist punks. All of this is basically to say that they haven’t produced a quality record since 2004. Order In Decline
may not be enough to rescue Sum 41 from irrelevance, but it’s a surprisingly crisp punk-rock album that is bound to turn some heads. If you’ve stuck with the band this long, your patience is about to be rewarded.
Order In Decline
is everything that the preceding three albums were not. The heavy riffs and guitar solos are back. The political angst is palpable. The songwriting is tight, punchy, and infectious. Sum 41 do everything they can here to apologize for fifteen years of middling music, and if any part of your musical preferences still reside in the early 2000s, then you probably won’t be able to suppress a smirk as opening track ‘Turning Away’ culminates in a thirty second guitar solo/breakdown that sounds like it could have been a highlight on any of their first three albums. What’s great about Order In Decline
is that Sum 41 don’t feel the need to appeal to every style that they’ve ever adopted (which was a major pitfall of Underclass Hero
); there’s really just one cheesy ballad (‘Never There’) and the rest is thirty six minutes of straightforward punk-rock with a riffy, metallic edge. It’s not quite on Chuck
’s level as a whole, but it definitely sounds like the successor to that record that we never got. Each song feels like it has a purpose and builds to something rewarding. Single ‘Out for Blood’ follows ‘Turning Away’ with an equally impressive electric guitar solo, while ‘The New Sensation’ opts for a vocal zenith highlighted by a shockingly on-point scream from Deryck Whibley. These are all things that we figured were long buried in Sum 41’s past, but here they pull every last trick out of the bag for one more exhaustive, thrilling experience.
Even if much of the enjoyment to be derived from Order In Decline
is rooted in nostalgia, Sum 41 is aware enough to capitalize on the current political climate. Whibley has never been a good or even average lyricist, and although most of the verses here are still ambiguous clichés, there’s enough pointed references to make the record feel modern: “even I know you can't evolve by building up your walls” / “you take this hate and package it to sell to victims of your great divide.” Politically charged music is nothing new (see: any time a conservative holds office
), but something about Sum 41 protesting Trump just feels right because that’s the way they’ve always been – anarchists who want to spit in the face of the establishment. Thus, in all ways, Order In Decline
is a designed crowd-pleaser – from the music to the lyrics, everything just fits
. That’s a feeling that Sum 41 fans haven’t had in a long, long time.
There’s no delusion going on that Sum 41 have reinvigorated pop-punk, but Order In Decline
certainly qualifies as a pleasant surprise. This is a band that we all left for dead – because they were, well, basically dead – but they’ve proven that there’s still something left in the tank. The album goes hard for the better part of a half hour, channeling the Chuck
-era with vigor and potency. The drums and guitar riffs are particularly good by the band’s standards, and might even be their most complex or best outright. This belongs in the same tier as All Killer No Filler
, Does This Look Infected
, and Chuck
; it’s their fourth sibling. The hope is obviously that Sum 41 can continue to bathe in the glorious fountain of punk youth, but even if this ends up being a one-off gem – or a swan song – it’s one more excellent record than anyone expected from these guys. Enjoy it while it lasts.