The pop punker’s seventh album blows all preconceptions out of the water with a sense of exhilarating freedom
There’s no better time for Canadian singer songwriter and alt pop icon Avril Lavigne to make a barnstorming return to her pop punk roots than 2022. With some of the sounds and styles that she helped usher in the early noughties, once again riding the pop zeitgeist powered by people like Olivia Rodrigo, Willow Smith and the ubiquitous pop punk godfather of Travis Barker, Avril has returned to take her rightful place at the top of this particular punk mountain. After her 2019 album Head Above Water dealt with deeply personal introspection detailing her battle with Lyme Disease through the medium of graceful piano balladry, Love Sux is brash, bratty, outrageously fun and super vibrant.
The album is without doubt the most concise and consistent of her career. The theme of all out alternative punk rock is coursing through 12 direct tracks that barely pause for breath. The tone is set with the scratching of feedback that opens the album on Cannonball before the guitar rush and her fevered cry of “like a ticking timebomb I’m about to exploooooddeee!” And we’re off to the races on a thrilling rush through some of her best and smartest punk songs.
The record is relentless in pace, an energy that is largely powered by the immediately recognisable and propulsive drumming of, yes you guessed it, that man Travis Barker who also handles some production and releases the album on his own record label. While Travis brings the energy Avril brings the hooks, and she’s on top form throughout as songs like Bite Me, Love It When You Hate Me – featuring US alt star blackbear – and Kiss Me Like The World Is Ending all feature soaring choruses. There’s a sense of exhilarating freedom in these songs, a feeling of new possibilities and embracing the world. There’s no room for angst. Avril sounds like she’s having the time of her life and if you don’t like it, well Bite Me. This is very much not a record for subtlety.
There are a few guests aside from Travis that feel very much at home with the pop punk vibe. Machine Gun Kelly, fresh of the success of his own recent Travis produced project, delivers an engaging counter vocal on Bois Lie. But the real highlight is provided by OG pop punk legend Mark Hoppus from Blink-182 on the escapist anthem All I Wanted that even manages to sneak in a reference to Avril’s previous epic I’m With You. The only minor mis-step is the one song that nominally approaches minor ballad territory in Dare To Love Me.
You could argue there’s a sense of sameyness to 12 songs that pretty much all share the same dynamic and pace – you can pretty much guess exactly where each song is going to go – but that’s all part of the charm. You want to be able to do that and when each song hits its beautifully satisfying sweet spot then you’re left punching the air in euphoria. There’s nothing wrong with being predictable if it’s doing exactly what you want it to do.
Throughout her career since she exploded with hits like Sk8er Boi and Complicated in 2002, Avril Lavigne has had to contend with the push and pull of people’s expectations of her. Should she go full pop? Should she go all out rock? Is she better doing soft adult contemporary? This seventh album blows all those preconceptions out the water, leaving a record that is finally pure distilled Avril that will connect with long time fans and the Gen Z kids who recognise her iconic status.