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Music Review: Sum 41 – Underclass Hero

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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

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About Mike D

  • daspence

    I personally like the album. Maybe the people who listen to the old Sum 41 don’t like this album, but for me, since I still like Blink 182’s old stuff and other non hard-metal bands. I do know that Best of Me sounds like they stole Blue October’s – Save Me melody or whatever. I could jam to this song, actually already did, in my car; while I was driving from work and back. I do think bands are ‘growing up’ in some sort of way, just look at Linkin Park. Linkin Park’s new album took me some time to getting used to, because I wasn’t used to that kind of nature of them singing. It was weird. I guess true Sum 41 fans could adapt to this new album and hate it or love it.

  • Dan Weaver

    actually this is sum 41’s fifth studio album. Most go so fr as to consider it their fourth since half hour of power was an EP. Therefore, you really do not seem to be a very hardcore Sum 41 fan, so how can you make an opinion like this? Those of us who have loved them since the All Killer No Filler days are quite pleased to see their old style come back.

  • Mikel Wallen

    I think it’s an excellent album with very few “filler tracks.” As to Ma Poubelle it means my trashcan in french :).

  • matt

    i’ve been a fan of sum 41 since i got my hands on the “all killer, no filler” album, i’ll agree that a few of the songs on this new album don’t sound like the “old school” sum 41…and i’ll be the first to admit that one of the things i loved about the band was that they didn’t have any sappy love songs about girls…i don’t know the reason for the different sound…but for me, lyrically, as long as they are singing/writing about things that mean something to them…then who are we to tell them they shouldn’t?..or that they can, but they need to make it sound different? i think that it shows their diversity as a band.

  • i like the album, though different approach, they still rock! ^^

  • em

    I dunno, I think that in a ways, they’re reverting to their “All Killer No Filler” punk/pop, but it’s coincidental that with the departure of their lead guitarist Dave, their sound got so much…simpler and uncluttered in comparison to “Chuck” and even Does this Look Infected?

    It doesn’t quite sound fresh, but it’s not bad either — I like it, but the dude’s french accent is terrible, I don’t know if that’s canadian french or what

  • Ivi

    The album is good, but I must agree in saying that I liked them for not singing too much about relationships and girls and that…its what made listening to them more meaningful. Otherwise the album is, yeah, good.