Sum 41′s new album, Underclass Hero, hasn’t come without its hardships on the band. They were nearly killed during a 2004 documentary shoot in the Congo. The band also split with their management. Most recently, it was announced that long-time member and guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh was leaving the band. Underclass Hero is their sixth studio release and first effort since 2005′s Chuck.
The record starts off with the title track and first single that quite frankly, sounds like every other Sum 41 song. Listen to it a few times. Doesn’t this song sound distinctly familiar? Anyway, the rest of the album sounds like someone else’s, not Sum 41′s. “With Me” could easily be mistaken for Yellowcard and “March of the Dogs” might as well be a Green Day song.
So, did they just decide to jock everyone else’s style or what? Here’s a prime example on the album: “So Long, Goodbye.” Green Day anyone? “Good Riddance?” Anyone?
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that these songs are so awful. What I am saying, or asking, is what happened? Sum 41 used to have their own sound. Now, they just sound like everyone else.
There are a few upsides. “Count Your Last Blessing” ends up a nice track with some palm-muting and piano. But again, it just sounds a little bit too much like Linkin Park. On “King of Contradiction” they get pretty heavy and return to a little bit of their punk side. I’ll get back to you on the rest of the upsides.
“Ma Poubelle” is a little diddy sang in French (I don’t speak French, so if someone wants to get back to me on that, it would be great). “Best of Me” turns out pretty weak. The album is also littered with several anti-Bush references (Confusion and Frustration In Modern Times, March of the Dogs, The Jester).
There is one huge factor in all this that can turn the tables for this album: the lyrics. Underclass Hero is lyrically far better than anything Sum has ever done. Several times, I found myself not liking the songs as they first began, but liking them by the end.
However, it just doesn’t sound like the old Sum 41. You can say it’s because they’re “growing up.” You can say it’s because they switched their style up. You can say it’s because they lost a piece of the puzzle when their guitarist left. You can say that when frontman Deryck Whibley married Avril Lavigne, it softened him up (See: “Best of Me”).
Maybe you will say that Whibley thinks this album is way deeper than it actually is. Maybe you will say the album isn’t all that bad because, hey, change is good. I happen to think that different is good… and I think it is time to start listening to something different.
Album Grade: C