This is a very strange time for music. It's 2016 and I've seen posts in my news feeds regarding new music from Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Yellowcard and now Sum 41. I spread a generous portion of snark on the top of my initial comments before quickly reminding myself that these bands were a huge part my life a little over a decade ago.
I wouldn't be quick to refer to Sum 41 as Canada's answer to Blink-182 (that title belongs to Gob). However, their place in the pop punk pantheon was cemented after a string of popular releases: All Killer, No Filler (2001), Does This Look Infected (2002) and Chuck, released in 2004. The latter album proved to be a turning point in the band's sound, trading stories of frat-boy antics for social consciousness. Deryck Whibley may no longer be the snotty brat that he once was, but he's endured quite a bit since their heyday: Divorce, health scares and several lineup changes.
Whereas New Found Glory were heavily influenced by their hardcore roots, Sum 41 were quite vocal about their love of 80's metal during their formative. Then again, it seemed as though every heavy band in the mid-2000s were simultaneously reminded that Judas Priest and Iron Maiden were very popular once upon a time, but I digress.
In gathering my thoughts, I realize that I no doubt come off as very negative towards Sum 41. I assure you that this is not my intent, though I must be honest with myself: I've never looked to them for any deep reflection or social commentary. Chuck may have been the summation of a near-death experience in the Congo compounded by frustration with Bush-era politics, but that album felt like the logical closing point for the band. There didn't seem like there was anywhere else for them to go, musically. 2007's Underclass Hero served as something of an epilogue, but ultimately found itself lost in a world that was saying farewell to the pop punk boom of the early aughts.
If their career to date is any indication, subtlety often eludes Sum 41. If Chuck was the band's call to action against a system of corruption, their new single and accompanying video for "Fake My Own Death" is possibly seen as a disapproving finger wagging at a world too preoccupied with Snapchat filters than societal issues. The video sees the band under attack from popular memes and emoji. It doesn't take a Mensa IQ to comprehend the point made by the imagery, but the on-the-nose tone borders on an aging hipster railing on against "those goddamned millennials with their iPhones and Facebook."
Thankfully, the music more than makes up for this low point. I can honestly say that Sum 41 haven't sounded this intense since 2004, more than likely due to the return of guitarist Dave "Brown Sound" Baksh, who left in 2005 to form his own band. I truly believe that Baksh is the true driving force behind what makes Sum 41 stand out among their peers. "Fake My Own Death" crackles with an energy that had laid long dormant, but time will tell if the anger and vitriol is as well-directed. Until then, I can honestly say that I'm glad to see them back. Sum 41 may not have been the smartest men in the room, but they've definitely been one of the most entertaining.
13 Voices will drop on October 7, 2016 via Hopeless Records.