Sum 41: Chuck Review

With their third album Chuck, Sum 41 drops their sarcastic attitude and cheeky punk sound of the past in favor of a heavier, more serious hardcore sound accompanied by a lyrical emphasis on ignorance and society’s wrongdoings. This new focus makes this the band’s most aggressive album yet, border-lining on metal influences at times that deliver hard-hitting riffs, fast-paced drumming and angst-filled songwriting. Frontman Deryck Whibley’s new jaded perspective was likely inspired by the band’s time in the violence-stricken Congo (the album is named for Chuck Pelletier, a UN aid worker who helped Sum 41 evacuate their hotel and avoid hostility), and the result is much more sobering and contentious entry in the group’s previously upbeat and lighthearted records. Although some hail Chuck as a complete departure from the band’s enjoyable punk style, this album adds diversity to Sum 41’s discography as the hardcore rock vibes lend to an engaging, albeit satisfactorily brief, sound.

Standout Tracks

“No Reason” quickly establishes the no-nonsense, severe temperament of Chuck with a dynamic, in-your-face leadoff track. Whibley delivers harsh and fuming vocals as he does for the majority of the album, while Dave Baksh’s central guitar riff lends itself to Steve Jocz’s rapid-fire drumming and Cone McCaslin’s tone-setting bass to give this song real energy and verve. The vocal counterpoint that closes the song closes it on a pronounced note, between background shouting and Whibley’s fierce accusations of “Tell me why can’t you see it’s not the way? / When we all fall down it will be too late / Why is there no reason we can’t change? / When we all fall down, who will take the blame?”

Continuing the aggressive stance on the evils and ignorance of society, “We’re All To Blame” furthers the hardcore influences for one of the heaviest tracks of Chuck. The intense heavy metal sound is perpetuated through blazing guitar riffs, pounding drums and Whibley’s jagged shouts and screams, but is nicely balanced by a few quick changes in tempo that slow things down and keep the flurry of musical activity from getting too tumultuous. Sum 41 has never been heavier, both in composition and songwriting, as Whibley delivers some of the band’s most anti-establishment sentiments: “And we’re all to blame / We’ve gone too far, from pride to shame / We’re trying so hard, we’re dying in vain.”

Pieces” deviates from the burning and vehement tone of the rest of the album to give the audience a pleasant glimpse at Sum 41’s variety with a serious and heartfelt ballad. Whibley knocks it out of the park with edgy but soft vocals that fit superbly with melancholy guitar-chugging, while the genuine lyrics about a failed relationship strike home. Although the urgent nature of Chuck dominates the majority of its run time, “Pieces” pervades through the angst as one of the band’s sincerest works.

The Verdict

Chuck strays from the jaunty and sarcastic ways of the past with a fervent and potent new dose of Sum 41. Like their other albums, Chuck clocks in at just over half an hour, but the power chords and affecting vocals of those 30 minutes make it a quick and hard-hitting experience. From the tense “There’s No Solution” to the reflective “Some Say,” Sum 41 offers a volatile but well-crafted album that deserves more recognition as the intelligent and important entry that it is in their discography. Some fans were disgruntled with band’s switch to a more hardcore style, but this aggressive change-up didn’t stay with Whibley and company forever. Fans of The Offspring, Blink-182, New Found Glory, The Starting Line, Jimmy Eat World, Rise Against, Green Day and Papa Roach should find something to enjoy here, even with the heavier mood. Because while this brief but intriguing side of Sum 41’s political and hard rock side doesn’t quite live up to their best work, it certainly establishes itself as an engaging and thought-provoking venture at the very least.

Final Score: 8/10

Rank: 3rd (five total albums)

Track List

  1. Intro
  2. No Reason
  3. We’re All To Blame
  4. Angels With Dirty Faces
  5. Some Say
  6. The Bitter End
  7. Open Your Eyes
  8. Slipping Away
  9. I’m Not The One
  10. Welcome To Hell
  11. Pieces
  12. There’s No Solution
  13. 88

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