This is a weird album for me. I strongly dislike it, but a part of me enjoys it. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make much sense. It can be described like an ex you hate but a part of you still loves. I’ve listened to Sum 41 for five years, and Underclass Hero is their only album that has disappointed me. How could I possibly dislike an album that has melodies that remind me so much of singing along to All Killer No Filler?
I’ve been anticipating Underclass Hero for months. Once I finally received it, I thought to myself, if only this could be the poppy, anthem-filled follow-up I’ve been waiting for since All Killer No Filler. I certainly thought so as the album kicked off with the title-track “Underclass Hero.” Filled with juvenile-themed lyrics (“Now it’s us against them / We’re here to represent / And spit right in the face of the establishment”) and a re-hash of the chorus to a previous b-side “Subject To Change” (Irony, much?), “Underclass Hero” left me with a constant need to look at Winamp to see if I wasn’t playing “Fat Lip.” The song quickly climbed the charts of my last.fm’s “most played songs” through repetitive plays. All is well in the pop-punk spot (a very, very large spot..) of my ears after “Underclass Hero” is over.
Something to note about this release is how the band has changed musically as opposed to their previous album Chuck. They’ve dropped the metal influences, went back to their old roots, and mixed some other things up in between. Piano is used throughout the album and is first introduced in the slow-tempo intro of “Walking Disaster.” It quickly explodes into catchy guitar riffs a minute in and stays that way until the last 25 seconds in which it switches back to the same piano intro. Up next comes “Speak of the Devil” which, musically, follows the same pattern as “Walking Disaster” (Slow intro, upbeat verses/chorus, slow ending). Something I don’t like about Underclass Hero is how a lot of the songs are just too long. Not that I dislike long songs, but in terms of pop-punk, a song can be only so long until it starts getting repetitive – something I can’t stand. “Walking Disaster” and “Speak of the Devil” are prime examples of this.
Moving onto the fourth track, “Dear Father,” songs are really starting to resemble others from different bands. “Dear Father” sounds like it could be a b-side to Blink-182’s Enema of the State with an intro reminiscent of “Adam’s Song.” As a short break from Underclass Hero, the band adds “Ma Poubelle,” a 55-second joke track entirely in French to the mix. Afterwards though, front man Deryck Whibley “metaphorically” murders the president (“And now the president’s dead / Because I blew off his head”) in my personal favorite song off Underclass Hero, “March of the Dogs.” This is the kind of song (along with “Underclass Hero”) that I wish the rest of the album sounded like, even though it sparks a resemblance, once again, to something off their previous albums. The rest of Underclass Hero’s similarities to other songs don’t end there though, “With Me” begins and is an instant reminder of Yellowcard’s “Only One.” The next few songs aren’t really special and didn’t do anything for me, which is the general feeling I had while listening to the album in its entirety. However, the album ends on a good note: a nice acoustic ballad “So Long Goodbye,” an ode to the departure of their guitarist Dave Baksh.
Overall, Underclass Hero let me down. It isn’t something I love or hate, it’s not something I’ll play often, and it’s not something that will end up on any of my “end of the year” lists. Fans of Sum 41 may enjoy it, but definitely won’t consider it the band’s best work. Likewise, haters of Sum 41 won’t find anything in it that will change their opinion about the band. Hopefully the next time Sum 41 goes into the studio to record a new album, a new album is something we’ll actually get, and not a CD full of covers.