Sum 41 took a hiatus on touring in 2012 to work on a new record. However, setbacks were caused by members leaving and frontman, Deryck Whibley, being hospitalised for alcoholism in 2014. The hiatus was longer than Whibley had intended, so the notion of 2016’s 13 Voices or its accompanying tour being described as a comeback must have felt like a misrepresentation to him. That’s why their 2017 tour is called ‘Don’t Call it a Sum-Back’, a pun I haven’t stopped smiling about since.
Whibley currently stands alone as the sole-surviving founding member of the 2000s most delinquent punk outfit, so that’s an adjustment if you’re a fan who dropped off somewhere in between 2004’s Chuck and 2007’s Underclass Hero (like most of their followers). This unfortunately means that What We’re All About is out of the question, as the lyrics would make no sense if Tom Thacker were to describe himself like Hot Chocolate, as original Asian guitarist, Dave ‘Brownsound’ Baksh, did back in 2000.
Fear not though, their early rock-rap rhythms are still there in Fat Lip with Thacker taking over from former drummer Steve Jocz on the highlight of the night (and their career) Fat Lip, he also takes closing duties on Pain for Pleasure in a relieving second encore that lets us know that they haven’t forgotten their early Iron Maiden/Judas Priest inspired diversions. It is a shame though that the early promise that this band held in fusing glam, thrash, NWOBHM, and hip hop into their pop-punk aesthetics was dropped faster that a new year’s gym membership.
Certainly, the Sum 41 of 2017 are a more mature outfit than the guys who named their third album, Does This Look Infected?, after a question they all found themselves asking while sampling a Taiwanese whore house, but that doesn’t make them a better one. The songs from 31 Voices add some much needed thrash urgency to the band’s set list but for the most part, their song choices remain the standard angsty punk anthems with the only thing to break them up being slower, more morose contemplations on alienation and failed relationships, which do more to decelerate their momentum rather than to put any fresh angle on their performance.
Having said that, when Sum 41 hit their rebellious, anarchic stride, they have a level of aggression that makes them sound like a latter day Minor Threat, with a sense of melody that makes them even more satisfying to sing along to. A loud, fun, cathartic night of nostalgic punk that takes you back to 2001 and listening to All Killer, No Filler on your Sony Walkman in between Double Maths and Cross Country.