Fronted by sk8terboi heartthrob (literally – he dates Avril) Deryck Whibley, Sum 41 are a respectable Canadian punk quartet with a couple of hit CDs under their studded belts. Given that their breakout single (2001’s ”Fat Lip”) was Beasties-style fratpunk, their thoughtful new album, Chuck, is like a Trading Spaces-worthy musical makeover. And that’s not all: In May, these beer-swilling mooks went to the Democratic Republic of Congo to work on a film about that country’s civil war, and the title of their new CD is a nod to the U.N. worker who whisked them away when bullets started whizzing through their hotel room. (Next thing you know, Britney will be naming her new CD after Boutros Boutros-Ghali.)
After two homogeneous albums on which they flirted with ironic metal-shredding, they fully embrace the riffage on Chuck, front-loading their tunes with pyrotechnics à la Metallica. Juxtaposed with the band’s proletariat rave-ups, it’s a meeting of two worlds – extreme metal and pop-savvy punk – that rarely pass each other in the halls, let alone hang out after school. And the music isn’t all that’s heavy; Whibley sounds truly distraught as he cries out about grown-up stuff like injustice, suffering, and well, okay, fights with girls.
It may sound heinous on paper, but trust us, the first single, ”We’re All to Blame,” is far better than it has a right to be: Flipping between a bittersweet chorus and buzz-saw verses about rampant materialism, it has a grandeur typically missing from a dumb-and-dumber genre. Sum 41’s heady CD is miles from rhyming about ”drinking in the back of an El Camino,” and it’s a big gamble for a band whose fans expect easily digestible three-minute blasts of pranks and parties.