Sum 41 - Chuck (Cover Artwork)

Sum 41

Chuck (2004)


Does This Look Infected? caught me a little by surprise: Here was a band that was best known for rapping, synch-jumping, and showing up on MTV every five seconds putting out a record that was fast, loud, and considerably metal-sounding (not like Morbid Angel or Mastodon metal, but you can imagine). At the same time, it was still poppy, overproduced, and melodic more in the vein of tour mates Good Charlotte and New Found Glory. The result was practically entertaining, and it wasn't hard to see this band evolving into their own fairly unique niche of pop metal.

That being said, their newest album Chuck is somewhat disappointing, and a significant regression from their last album. It starts off with a bang as "No Reason" and the lead single "We're All To Blame" burst out of the gate with energy, rapid-fire guitars, and the love-it-or-hate-it (or think it's okay) melodicism of lead vocalist Deryck Whibley. An early miscue in the oddly Oasis-sounding and built for radio "Some Say" is quickly rectified with the "The Bitter End". This song may not only be the best song they've ever written, but a good example of what can make this band so interesting: breakneck speed, heavy riffage, and Metallica-influenced yelling (also, 3 out of 5 metal fans agree: the guitar solo shreds). However, the acoustic intro to the awkward "Slipping Away" starts the downward spiral of the second half of the album. The songs are slower, and the band can't seem to decide what direction they want to go in, both musically and vocally. Mid tempo, low key sections bog down "Pieces" and "There's No Solution". Whibley's voice works best at full throttle, and comes up short in the more mellow parts of "Pieces" and the also-somehow-Oasis-sounding intro to "88". The fact that there are mellow parts at all really takes away from the true strength of this band.

Lyrically, the mood is more somber than the smart-alecky themes we've come to expect. "We're All To Blame" is the obvious standout, and is the only song on the album inspired by their recent hostile experience in Congo. It also should be mentioned that the title of the album is a big "thank you" to Chuck Pelletier, because, as stated in the liner notes, "without him, we'd be dead." Chuck sports some pretty nice artwork as well, with camouflage colored images of kids and weapons.

If you are still under the impression that Sum 41 is a joke band or a Beastie Boys-wannabe, give some of these songs a try, and you may be pleasantly surprised. No one can deny the band's musical talent, and the more serious lyrical themes are a definite improvement, but the lack of consistency kills this album. The highlight of Sum 41's discography is going to come when they fully embrace their metal influences and make a straight-up metal album, and sadly Chuck misses the mark.