Pop Punk. Two words that when fused together describe one of music's most derided genres. The case for the prosecution is a strong one - remember Good Charlotte? All American Rejects? Horrific. However the description could also be used appropriately for some truly excellent bands - Blink 182, The Ataris and the criminally under-rated Lit spring to mind. Another band who could join this list was chosen through the medium of a shuffle for me to review. For a certain generation this choice will likely inspire some good and embarrassing memories.
Right first of all let's get the embarrassing memory out of the way. As a naive 18 year old I visited some mates at the university I would later attend. They were going to a Sum-41 concert whilst I enjoyed a few pints of red wine. This was a terrible idea and the end result involved vomit and buses. I would therefore be entitled to associate Sum-41 with negative memories but I really don't. I genuinely think this is a fantastic album which although unable to back up it's bolshy title comes pretty damn close. 'Crazy Amanda Bunkface', 'Summer' and 'Heart Attack' are harmless but forgettable tracks which certainly warrant the description of Filler but they are more than outweighed by some true brilliance. The album is produced by the late Jerry Finn who made his name producing other successful punk acts like Offspring, Rancid and most successfully Blink-182. Finn knew how to transfer somewhat chaotic live performances effectively into the studio so he was a perfect choice for this album. Fat Lip has long been considered a classic and arguably the finest example of the genre (although in my view My Own Worst Enemy deserves that accolade). The beauty of these songs is there really is no waste - Fat Lip clocks in at just shy of three minutes and delivers a perfectly judged punch of youthful exuberance. Sum 41 have been likened to the Beastie Boys and though they never reach the lofty lyrical heights of Licence to Ill that same spirit of reckless abandon is undoubtedly present in Fat Lip. All the songs do follow the same blue print which is a little tiresome but taken as joyous nuggets of pop punk gold Motivation, Nothing on my Back and In Too Deep really do take some beating. An unexpected highlight to the album is 'Pain For Pleasure' - a witty homage to Maiden/ACDC which hints at the influence of metal which becomes more prominent in Sum 41s later (and lesser) albums.
Many of you might find it an odd departure from my two previous reviews to be so effusive in my praise of what is essentially a pop record. I believe music to be about evoking emotion and whereas Whiskeytown may be capable of articulating heartbreak, and Pavement able to transmit introspection and longing, neither come close to Sum41 in terms of the ability to provoke mindless joy.