All Killer, No Filler is the second full-length album from Canadian punk-rock band Sum 41. Produced by the late and great Jerry Finn and released in 2001, it became the hallmark of Sum 41’s career and is their most successful album to date. But among the band’s varied sounds, from ska to punk to metal, why is it this pop-punk classic that’s still regarded as a classic?
All Killer, No Filler opens with a prophetical warning: “The dark armies then will come/When the sum is 41.”
Cue the gritty guitar riffs and rhythmic drum beats that lead into Nothing On My Back, the band’s opening track apart from the intro.
What follows feels like a grab bag of punk, pop and rock mixes. There’s that blazing, no-holds-barred punk found in Never Wake Up, All She’s Got, and hit single Fat Lip, but Sum 41 doesn’t hesitate from going down the pop-punk road with album highlights In Too Deep and Summer. In Too Deep in particular has all the makings of a stadium rock anthem, and to this day is regarded as a Sum 41 classic.
Despite the album’s promise of its tracks being all killer and no filler, there are some minute weak points to be found. Though they follow the same formula as some of the album’s more notable tracks, Rhythms and Crazy Amanda Bunkface in particular feel unexciting even with the usual pop-punk formula tallied in. Though they’re by no means bad songs, they lack any kind of hook found in In Too Deep’s slow buildup or Fat Lip’s alternating vocalists (guitarists Dave “Brownsound” Baksh and Steve “Stevo32” Jocz share vocals with frontman Deryck Whibley on this track).
But what the album lacks in content makes up for in overall flow. That is, every single track in Killer feels precisely located, every single track fades into the next seamlessly. There’s no going wrong with a track progression like Motivation à In Too Deep à Summer. One after the other, the band blasts through Killer with hardly a breath in between – and for such a monumental album, that’s a really good thing.
Every time In Too Deep comes on the radio, or on Spotify, everyone in the room proceeds to sing along. Fifteen years after Killer’s release, it still feels like an instant pop-punk classic.
All Killer, No Filler would go on to sell nearly two million copies in the U.S., in turn launching the band into superstardom.
However, the album would not turn out to be indicative of their later works. Their follow-up albums, Does This Look Infected? (2002) and Chuck (2004), ventured into darker punk and metal territories that is more indicative of their current style. “A lot’s happened in a year,” said Whibley in regards to Does This Look Infected?. “When we were writing [All Killer, No Filler], everything was happy go lucky. Now this time we've seen a little bit more and our eyes have been opened up a little bit."
Still, thanks to the success of Killer, Sum 41 rests easily among the many pop-punk greats.
Sum 41’s latest album, 13 Voices, releases on Oct. 7th. It is the first album in five years from the band, serving as a followup to 2011’s Screaming Bloody Murder.
13 Voices is the first Sum 41 album since 2004’s Chuck to feature founding guitarist Baksh, and the first Sum 41 album without founding drummer Jocz, who left the band in 2013.
Three tracks from the forthcoming album – Fake My Own Death, War, and God Save Us All (Death to POP) – have been released. The album will launch alongside NOFX’s First Ditch Effort and Green Day’s Revolution Radio.
Next week’s review: Green Day’s “American Idiot”