Over the past few years, I have found it easier to defend my adoration for Good Charlotte, even after many critics had written them off after the multi-platinum success of The Young & the Hopeless. Good Charlotte is continuing to find ways to reinvent themselves in the latter stages of their career, and their seventh full-length album entitled Generation Rx is no exception. Coming off of two commercially successful albums (Cardiology and Youth Authority) after a lengthy hiatus is no small feat, and the fact that many fans have stayed with the band over their lengthy career shows the staying power of the Waldorf, Maryland natives.
Generation Rx is another one of those albums that immediately surpasses your expectations, regardless of your preconceived notions surrounding the band. From the off-putting cover art that could be easily confused as a Hollywood Undead cover, to the new direction of heavy-hitting singles such as “Actual Pain,” this album seemed to be destined for another lackluster reception. But the beauty of Good Charlotte’s songs has always been their honesty and meanings behind each of the heartfelt tracks that contain a pulse behind them.
The album kicks off with a lengthy interlude/atmospheric title track that quickly blends into the second song, “Self Help.” For an album that only has nine total tracks, I found the interlude, in the beginning, to be somewhat of a risky endeavor. Risks aside, “Self Help” sets the crystal clear tone that GC demand to be taken seriously. Lead vocalist, Joel Madden sings on this song, “When no one cared about me, dreams were all I had/But nightmares grow and no one’s listening/And idle thoughts will do their thing/I still feel so much pain here from the past,” and his vocal delivery is as powerful as ever throughout this entire album.
The third track, “Shadowboxer” continues with the heavy hitting beats and cranked-up guitars courtesy of the dual-guitar attack of Benji Madden and lead guitarist Billy Martin. Martin, in particular, really shines on this album with many key guitar solos and unique parts that demand to be listened to appreciate the intricate nature of each riff truly carefully. “Actual Pain” was the first song released from this album, and works well as a mid-set track that features some new electronica elements and samples throughout.
Good Charlotte’s most powerful song on this album, “Prayers,” directly calls out all the politicians who are planning out their next “thoughts and prayers” blanket statement for the next tragedy in our society. Madden sings on the second verse, “None of this makes sense in this reality/God just leaves the room when I turn on my TV/I see a little girl who’s crying ’cause she lost her family/All these strangers sending thoughts and prayers/She’s buried underneath/Why do we kill each other?/We can’t feel the pain in one another’s…Prayer/They don’t mean a thing at all.” The fact that Good Charlotte can sum up the current state of the political climate whenever a tragedy does occur shows a lot about their awareness of how their musical platform can be used in meaningful ways for the audience that has grown with them.
“Cold Song” features some of the best guitar work that Billy Martin has ever done, and the harmonies between the Madden brothers make this song particularly memorable. “Leech” features a rare collaboration with Sam Carter (of the Architects) and includes a near-Halloween soundtrack type piano intro that blends well into the crunchy guitar riffs.
The closing duo of “Better Demons” and “California (The Way I Say I Love You)” sold this record for me by encompassing everything that I love about Good Charlotte’s songwriting: honest songs, with great harmonies and interesting breakdowns. I hope that the casual fans of GC find some time to give this record a chance, while the fans who have been with the band from the beginning can genuinely be rewarded for their loyalty on Generation Rx. Good Charlotte’s seventh album may not be a masterpiece, but they are pretty damn close to getting there.