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Sum 41 - Underclass Hero

Sum 41, Underclass Hero

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THE fourth album from Sum 41 marks the sound of a band that has rediscovered its spark. By singer, songwriter and guitarist Deryck Whibley’s own admission, the completed album is something of a surprise.

Since 2004’s heavy-hitter Chuck the band has been going through some changes prompted by the departure of original member and guitarist Dave Brownsound and the subsequent split from their old management company.

Rather than folding and disappearing quietly into the sunset (or even going the way of contemporaries such as Blink-182 by forming new projects), Sum 41 rallied and began work on Underclass Hero. The result is a maturer collection of work that’s much more inward looking.

Several of the songs reflect Whibley’s personal feelings, whether its confronting inner demons, tackling his relationship with his absent dad or even Brownsound’s departure. There are still political potshots aplenty, such as March oOf The Dogs and Confusion & Frustration In Modern Times but they’re nicely spread apart.

The best thing about Underclass Hero, however, is its return to more radio-friendly punk-rock and pop. Whereas Chuck and Does This Look Infected? were more informed by the style of Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, this is a return to the endearing energy of earlier hits such as Fat Lip and In Too Deep.

And the highlights come thick and fast. For out and out fun and madcap punk-rock energy try Walking Disaster, an edgy lament about teenage confusion and angst, or the inward looking of Count Your Last Blessings, which drops explosive guitar riffs with a melancholy piano chord that’s worthy of comparison with Linkin Park’s latest efforts.

The emotional Dear Father benefits from a more restrained approach, taking the form of a letter to an unknown dad with lyrics that include “I don’t know if you care but it seems that you don’t”. Whibley’s vocals capably balance regret with a determination to get on with things, much like the ethos behind the whole album.

March Of The Dogs begins with some explosive guitar loops and the opening statement “ladies and gentlemen of the underclass, the president of the United States is dead”, before blossoming into a thrilling (but damning) indictment of American politics a la Green Day’s American Idiot.

The Jester is another angry lament at political leaders that mixes tempo to emphatic effect, while the part-acoustic With Me provides an instantly nice contrast that’s more upbeat in content (taking the form of a thank you to a loved one).
The band’s keen ear for melody is also demonstrated on the enchanting acoustic track Best Of Me, a heartmelter of sorts, and on So Long Goodbye, the penultimate track that’s sure to inspire plenty of raised lighters (and/or mobile phones).

The final track, however, is all about going out in emphatic style. It’s No Apologies and blends powerful punk-rock guitar riffs with reassuring lyrics such as “don’t worry about me”, as well as a rallying call to “the hopeless and lost” or “the underdog nation” not to give up in spite of the turbulent times in which we live.

Given the history surrounding the creation of this album, it’s a message that’s delivered all the more emphatically to bring things to a thunderous close. And fair play to Sum 41, this is a blistering return to form.

Download picks: Walking Disaster, Dear Father, Count Your Last Blessings, March Of The Dogs, With Me, Best Of Me, So Long Goodbye, No Apologies

Track listing:

  1. Underclass Hero
  2. Walking Disaster
  3. Speak Of The Devil
  4. Dear Father
  5. Count Your Blessings
  6. Ma Poubelle
  7. March Of The Dogs
  8. The Jester
  9. With Me
  10. Pull The Curtain
  11. King Of Contradiction
  12. Best Of Me
  13. Confusion And Frustration In Modern Times
  14. So Long Goodbye
  15. No Apologies