“Punk-pop”, eh? What started out as a perfectly apt description for the melodic edginess of The Ramones and Buzzcocks and neatly summed up a late ’80s/early ’90s Brit scene that spawned bands such as Senseless Things and Leatherface, then had its definition worryingly extended to the likes of Blink 182, before being bastardised completely by seemingly being applied to any muppet with a spike in his hair (you’ve been Busted, McFly).
Canadian quartet Sum 41 may have been lumped in with this misnomer of a musical genre, but to these ears there was always more meat, more substance to their sound, and it came as no surprise to learn of their love for heavy metal stalwarts like Iron Maiden.
On Chuck, their third album, Sum 41 have allowed their metal influences to roam wildly more than ever before, something abundantly clear from one listen to recent single We’re All To Blame, which, ahem, Chuck-s in various sections of thrash guitars and shouted vocals among its poignant, pop-tastic choruses.
Elsewhere, Angels With Dirty Faces and most notably, The Bitter End, are spanking pieces of early Metallica / Megadeth influenced metal, complete with super-fast drumming, big riffs and even widdly guitar solos. Headbangers will, quite literally, have a Ball.
Sum 41 haven’t been brave, or some would say, stupid enough to go all-out along the Highway To Hell though. No, Chuck is a showcase for the kind of versatility that Blink 182 and Green Day have shown on their most recent albums, and is a necessity in the career-prolonging stakes.
Open Your Eyes and Welcome To Hell are turbocharged pieces of punk that will propel any pogo-ers into action; Some Say starts off sounding bizarrely like Oasis before turning into an anthemic rock number; while Slipping Away and Pieces are surely singles waiting to happen – the former featuring contemplative strings, and the latter’s melancholy melody winning the day when you might have thought its jangly, college rock nature might have lost the plot completely.
It’s not all plain sailing, mind. Occasionally, Sum 41 veer dangerously towards sounding like a Linkin Park cover band, exemplified by certain parts of I’m Not The One, whose “You Take The Best Of Me” chant in the bridge is a near lift from the much maligned nu-metallers’ A Place In My Head.
In addition, Chuck really should have finished at Pieces, but instead slips in the even Linkin Park-ier There’s No Solution, and standard (dare I say it) punk-pop of 88 and Noots (albeit with some thrashy bits and solos).
So Chuck isn’t a masterpiece but Sum 41 have certainly added a heck of a lot more colour to their previously, partially monochrome musical output. If they can sort out the side of their repertoire that falls indecisively between light and heavy, then the truly great album that they obviously have in them will finally emerge.