Things have certainly changed for Canadian rocker Avril Lavigne since 2004’s sophomore effort Under My Skin. Where that album portrayed a petulant, pre-marriage Avril on angst overload – she moaned about boys, boys and, well, boys – latest disc The Best Damn Thing doesn’t so much as moan about boys, rather it showcases Lavigne in a far feistier mood, kicking their asses and taking names respectively.
It’s a direction best offset by lead single Girlfriend, a swaggering, bitchy empowerment anthem that sees bad Avril tangle with her distinctly more geeky counterpart (’cause she’s ‘like, so whatever’) for the affections of her current squeeze. It’s confident, though at times complacently arrogant lyrics typify the standpoint Lavigne’s taken as regards The Best Damn Thing. It’s an assured, though not entirely fulfilling, set of songs designed to get fans off their asses and back into the mosh-pit – and to that degree, it works an absolute treat.
There’s no playing the lowly underdog here, as the likes of I Can Do Better andEverything Back But You act as proverbial middle fingers to wasteful lovers, with Lavigne breaking into hysterical giggles at the climax of the former. When You’re Gone andInnocence meanwhile show that Avril certainly hasn’t lost her ear for a cracking power ballad, with the combination of subtle strings and gorgeous piano working especially well throughoutInnocence’s loved-up tale of (you’d assume) Lavigne’s not-so-recent marriage to Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley.
Long time fans will doubtless notice the writing credits for Lavigne’s former lead guitarist Evan Taubenfeld on the likes of Innocence, Hot and One Of Those Girls -arguably the albums’ three standout tracks – and considering Taubenfeld’s successful co-work with Lavigne on debut album Let Go back in 2001, it really comes as little surprise to see his name attached to the albums best moments. If anything, it serves to show just how inexperienced Avril remains as a sole lyricist, with the bratty naivety of title-track The Best Damn Thing paling in comparison to Taubenfeld’s assistance on Hot.
That said though, it’s the same youthful innocence that makes The Best Damn Thing such a fun, engaging record. The excellent Runaway crashes along on a wave of crunchy guitars and Travis Barker-donated drums, whilst the catchy-as-hell Contagious sees Avril professing her qualities to a prospective partner, and whilst there are times when the songs show a worrying lack of substance, it’s largely due to The Best Damn Thing being a no-frills romp of a record, not designed to be deep or particularly meaningful.
Lavigne’s legion of fans will doubtless treat The Best Damn Thing like an early Christmas present, and so they should. For all its lyrical misgivings (largely when Avril tries togo it alone), TBTD is an exuberantly fun album, one that packs more than a fair punch and puts a delightfully perky twist on the direction of former releases Let Go and Under MySkin.
Though it’s hard to see The Best Damn Thing furthering Lavigne’s aims of ultimately becoming a serious singer-songwriter, for now it’s simply a case – as her currently dyed hair suggests – of blondes having just that bit more fun.