SUM 41 Wrote A Thrash Metal Album When You Weren’t Looking
We’re well into 2014 at this point and virtually every music publication in the world has failed us, because NO ONE is talking about the 10th anniversary of the greatest pop-thrash record of all time, Sum 41’s grossly underappreciated Chuck. Even the band is apparently embarrassed of this record, calling it “selfish” in retrospective interviews, but I consider it their finest moment.
Everyone complains about how treasured underground bands gradually water down their heavy sound to be more palatable to mainstream audience, and once a band goes “soft”, they very rarely get heavy again (at least not convincingly). Notable exceptions of bands who actually put out heavier albums in their later career include Pantera, Skid Row… and Sum 41.
Sum 41 had it made in the post-Greenday explosion of power-pop bands with bratty singing and politely distorted guitars. They had no reason to diverge from the formula of a kinda-rapped verse with a catchy chorus, 4-chord progressions from beginning to end. They did it though, probably thanks to the only member of the band without a severe melanin deficiency, lead guitarist Dave “Brownsound” Baksh. Their breakout album All Killer, No Filler contained lyrical hints of their hesher fetish (“Heavy metal and mullets, it’s how we were raised – Maiden and Priest were the gods that we praised”) as well as the goofy faux hair metal jam “Pain For Pleasure”.
The following album Does This Look Infected had a slightly darker tone and few hard rock licks thrown in amongst the expected pop punk tropes, a winning cocktail for earning the hearts of angsty teenagers.
What happened next? After getting caught amongst gunfire filming a documentary in the Congo, the band got political (lol) and fully embraced a metal-inspired sound (shit yeah). Chuck is an album of grungy jams studded with some true whiplash-inducing headbangers like this one:
And this one, featuring some tasty shredding courtesy of Mr. Brownsound:
When this album dropped I was 15 and this seemed like the future. It was catchy and accessible in spite of being dark and kinda heavy, a harbinger of a time where sizzling licks can intermingle with singalong choruses in peace. Alas, it was not to be, as Brownsound wanted this to be Sum 41’s new modus operandi while the rest of the band (and apparently many fans) considered it a failed experiment. Brownsound accordingly quit the band to start the disappointing Brown Brigade and create garbage dad metal, leaving the rest of Sum 41 to carry on creating garbage dad punk.
Exhibit 1: GARBAGE DAD METAL
Exhibit 2: GARBAGE DAD PUNK
The perfect storm came and went, but at least we will always have this document of when two of my greatest musical loves, pop punk and thrash metal, were briefly and publicly wed amidst controversy, not unlike Britney Spears and some guy named Jason had done earlier that very year. (The early 2000’s was such a vibrant time.)
Let’s end on a positive note. Now, as much as I love Chuck and the two records that precede it, I have to admit that none of these releases are Sum 41’s greatest gift to the universe. If only one relic of human civilization is to remain in the distant future to be discovered by an intelligent alien species, I would wish it to be the music video for “What We’re All About”, Sum 41’s rap song for the Spiderman soundtrack featuring a guitar solo by Kerry King.
The early 2000’s was such a vibrant time
On a scale of Dio to David Draiman, how much of a poser am I for spending 600 words talking about Sum 41 on a metal blog? Did you give any of these tunes a shot and actually kinda sorta like them? How goddamn funny is that Spiderman song? Did anyone else realize that “The Bitter End” is basically Reader’s Digest “Battery”? Sound off below!