When Sum 41 first gained mainstream chart success with their 2001 break up anthem “In Too Deep” the first major criticism the band faced was for Blink 182, to the point where many dubbed them “Blink 182’s Little Brothers”. Their Jackass style video antics and catchy, sometimes gimmicky, hooks did little to rid them of this dismissive moniker.
But there was always something a little darker about Sum 41. From their tendancy to write about darker subjects than most pop-punk bands would dare (In The Hell song they sang of a friend of theirs who had contracted HIV), to the frequent use of more violent imagery than the genre was known for (for a punk band they actually find far more inspiration from the likes of Metallica and Iron Maiden than from Green Day and The Ramones) Sum 41 had greater ambitions beneath the juvenile delinquent sheen.
Fast forward a decade and as Sum 41 and the bands with whom they shared a (perhaps derogatory) label are growing up and 3 chord songs about skateboarding and breaking up are becoming stale and repetitive. Green Day went dramatic narrating a Rock Opera centring around a character called Jesus of Suburbia and Blink 182 went melodramatic and split up. So what was there to do for a band who had always shown just a little more ambition bubbling underneath the surface.
The result is Screaming Bloody Murder, an album that will no doubt hear as many shouts of “Rip Off” as thier 2001 debut “All Killer, No Filler.” Then the accusation focused on thire similarities to Blink 182. This time it will no doubt focus on latter day Green Day and My Chemical Romance. But again it’s an album for which I can forgive a lot more of it’s faults than it’s inspirations.
This album goes places that the band have never ventured before and with it’s hazy, dreamlike introduction of the opening track and token ballad single “What Am I To Say” those places are clearly marked “Attempted Maturity” and “Unnecessary Theatrics”. Chief song writer Deryck Whibley clearly sees this ablbum as his American Idiot; there is even a sequence of three songs that can be played back to back to form one long overly emotional Broadway anthem. There’s a couple of tracks that sound like they were written by Gerard Way as well.
But where I could stomach this album better than I could stomach the other two bands comes entirely down to the front man, the artist formally known as Bizzy D. You know, Deryck Whibly, the guy I told you writes the songs. Simply put Mr. D isn’t the showman that Bily Joe Armstrong or Gerrard Way like to believe they are. He remains an awkward, relativity unassuming presence behind a microphone, while his peers, annoyingly, always have one eye on the camera. I can’t ever see him putting mascara on in the mirror or pouting at the camera. This makes him seem more honest in his vocals, more genuine and workman like in his performance; it doesn’t have the fakery or pretention the other two are prone to.
Having said that however, the album does tend to pick up the pace when he does what he does best. Angry fast paced anthems like the title track, “Skumfuck” and “Blood in My Eyes” are the stars of the show. The middle section of the album featuers much of the departures from the formula and had a tendency to drag in the process. The familiar tracks contain just enough ambition to keep your interest while the more diverse tracks are samey enough to become chores to listen to, earning them the majority of skips and tune outs.
Sum 41 have managed to create an album that I aprreciated for the effort but appreciated more for reminding me I’ve still got “Does This Look Infected?” somewhere on my iTunes.