Release date: July 2007
Tracks: 15 (1 bonus)
Underclass Hero is the release me and thousands of other Sum 41 fans have been waiting for since the genre-mixing 2004 album Chuck. Where the last record was a dark and almost metal album to reflect the time the band spent in the Congo amidst fighting and sometimes calm, sometimes terrifying conditions, Underclass Hero has not just returned the band to the pop-punk roots that were established with 2000’s Half Hour of Power, but shows real growth as well. This is the first record released by Sum 41 without their original lead guitarist and backing vocalist Dave Baksh, who left in 2006 to work with another band and more completely explore his hard-rock tendencies. It is also the first Sum 41 record produced by front man Deryck Whibley.
The album begins with its two singles: ?Underclass Hero? and ?Walking Disaster,? and it is these well-picked tracks that have helped the record peak at number one in Canada–just like every other album they have released to date. It’s no secret that Sum 41 is loved very well in its home country, but after switching the tone from Does This Look Infected? (2002) to Chuck and back to Underclass Hero, it is impressive that any band, despite their rampant popularity, could not falter even a little on the top spot.
What strikes me most about this record is that you can hear so many different musical influences playing into so many of the tracks. ?Count Your Last Blessings? features a piano solo on the intro and outro, something that instantly brings Linkin Park to mind. A little of The Offspring pops its head up here and there, as does The Used, and ?March of the Dogs? begins with a bass solo that is reminiscent of Blink 182.
The biggest face within the record comes from Green Day, however, which is not hugely surprising since Sum 41 has claimed the band has been an influence on their own music since the beginning of their career.
Tracks 10 and 11, ?Pull the Curtain? and ?King of Contradiction,? feel like they could have been pulled right out of Kerplunk (1992) and Dookie (1994) or Nimrod (1997), with the first enjoying a lot more polish from a more professional band than Green Day was at the time. At times It’s as if the two bands have just melted right together and are indistinguishable from one another. The only way I can describe it, for Green Day and Sum 41 fans as single-minded as I am sometimes, is that It’s like binging on chocolate, chips, dip, and greasy french fries after months of being uber-healthy. That’s it exactly. This record is like poutine. Honestly!
I hate to say it, but the departure of Dave Baksh may have been exactly what Sum 41 needed to persevere and to keep writing outstanding music. Pop-punk is not a term I usually enjoy using, but in this case it suits so well and if I were in charge of the masses, it would only be used for bands just like this: punk-inspired but generally lighter in tone. Sum 41 couldn’t have done a better job on this record, and I have to say I haven’t enjoyed a new CD this much in a long time. Kudos.