In the short time that he spent on Sputnikmusic, Josh Keen garnered a lot of mixed reactions. His dry-as-a-bone wit and sarcasm were loved by few and hated by most. Indeed, to those who never got to know him further, Josh seemed to merely be a depressed cynic who found joy by putting others down. But if you were one of the few who chose to get to know him, you would find that, well, he is
a cynic who finds joy by putting others down. But there’s more to him than that. Josh is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. In the few privileged months that I spent talking to him outside of Sputnik, I gained not only a trusted confidante, but a great friend as well. When he informed me that he would be losing his internet connection, I was very sad. Perhaps I was even sadder than I should have been. After all, it’s only the internet right? Whatever. Damn Sputnik and its tendency to bring people that will never meet together.
Although he probably wouldn’t like the comparison, Josh and Good Charlotte are very similar as far as this site’s perception of them goes. Due to mass TV/radio airplay, Good Charlotte’s image is based on their singles, which admittedly haven’t been all that spectacular. But, similar to Josh, once you break through their outer image, Good Charlotte turns out to be excellent. With The Young and the Hopeless
, the band released three singles that were enough to turn anybody away from the album, let alone the people that already dislike the band. Then, with their latest album The Chronicles of Life and Death
they released I Just Wanna Live
as a single, which is by far the band’s worst song. I really can’t blame anyone for not picking these albums up because of those singles. But if you are willing to look past the singles, you will find that the rest of the songs on this album are of exceeding high quality.
The first thing that I noticed about this album was that the vocals are better. On The Young and the Hopeless
, there were times when Joel sounded like he recorded the vocals when he had a cold. Gone is the nasally voice; in its place is a scratchier, somewhat rawer style. Benji and Joel still harmonize a lot, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. On TYATH
, I felt that they harmonized too much, to the point where there were times when I got sick of it. They backed off a little bit on this album, which I feel was a good choice. Joel’s range has increased as well. On previous efforts, his voice had little variation and he never strayed too far from his comfort zone. Now, he can be heard going all over the place with his vocals; there’s even some falsetto here and there.
The lyrics have improved also; at times they actually border on deep, which is a surprising achievement for Good Charlotte. Though that’s certainly the exception and not the rule, it’s apparent that the Madden brothers made a considerable effort to better their lyrical skill. Instead of writing about usual pop-punk fare like relationships and love, most songs are about more mature subjects, such as comparing life to death (hence the album’s title). The band even ventured into the territory of social commentary in songs like In This World (Murder)
and The World is Black
. As far as musicianship goes, they have improved somewhat, though they still come off as generic in most songs. Fortunately, this is pop-punk, and instrumental proficiency isn’t a requirement. Good Charlotte have always had a solo or two on their albums, and Chronicles
is no exception. Billy Martin is obviously the most proficient member of the band, and he shows it by letting loose some cool solos on a few songs. Paul Thomas has always impressed me with his quirky bass lines and he adds some flair to an otherwise dull musical performance.
One thing that I’ve noticed about Good Charlotte’s albums is that each one has a somewhat unique feel because each album has a different drummer. The band has always had trouble with keeping a drummer, but this has proven to be a blessing in disguise. Chris Wilson, the drummer for this album, is the best drummer the band has had to date, but a year or so after this album dropped, he left the band. While this certainly could be considered a bad thing, I am excited to see what the new drummer will bring to the table on the band’s next record. Good Charlotte’s songwriting has always been pretty generic, as they have mainly stuck to a verse-chorus-bridge-chorus formula. With this album, though, they sought to branch out from the norm. The Madden brothers really came into their own on this album, showing a knack for using different song structures and tempo changes. This is most apparent in the bridges. The band focused primarily on building the songs up and then having them climax, instead of trying to make the choruses as catchy as possible.
The Chronicles of Life and Death
is a superb album from Good Charlotte. The growth that the band went through is apparent; they improved in every area, making a darker, more mature album. I will admit that releasing two versions was a cheap marketing ploy, though. If you’re planning on buying this, just get the platinum version, which has both bonus tracks on it.
Meet My Maker
This review is dedicated to Josh Keen. OKATY.