Friday, September 30, 2016

REVIEW: SUM 41'S ALL KILLER, NO FILLER

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?

The Content

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.

The Impact

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.

The Future

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”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

REVIEW: NOFX'S PUNK IN DRUBLIC

NOFX's Punk in Drublic is the American punk band's fifth full-length effort in addition to their mainstream breakthrough. Released in 1994, it is considered to be one of the band's best albums. But why does Punk in Drublic still hold a candle to other punk albums today?

The Content

For what was, at the time (and arguably still is), a lowkey punk-rock group, Punk in Drublic starts off with its head held high and its eyes set on total destruction. The opening track, Linoleum, sets the pace for what becomes a nearly nonstop power-chord shredfest, leading into other tracks such as Don’t Call Me White, Jeff Wears Birkenstocks?, and Reeko.

Upon first listen, Drublic has all the makings of your classic punk album. Power chords, raw vocals, lyrics of doom, gloom, politics, lovemaking, and everything in between, lurching bass, machine-gun drum fills…it’s all there. I’ll admit to having never listened to NOFX before last week, but all of its hooks have gotten me, well, hooked.

And yet for an album that released in the year of a Punk Renaissance (Green Day’s Dookie, The Offspring’s Smash, and Rancid’s Let’s Go all released in 1994, alongside Punk in Drublic), it feels so ahead of its time in comparison to its millennial counterparts. Riffs found in tracks like Linoleum, Leave Me Alone, and Perfect Government feel reminiscent of the works of later pop-punk bands such as Blink-182 and Sum 41, who would both go on to inspire bands of similar caliber.

And in this case, the early bird gets the worm; the tracks found on Punk in Drublic feel uniquely inspired, its lyrics indicative of other punk songs of the day while setting itself apart from other punk albums released during that era.

The Impact

Even without the help of a major record label (a NOFX trait that still carries to this day), Punk in Drublic stands among the many 90’s punk greats, and for good reason. Drublic managed to launch NOFX into the mainstream without any radio airplay, major label recognition, or aired music videos.

The album would go on to earn a Gold certification from the MPAA for domestic sales of over 500,000 copies, whereas worldwide Drublic has sold upwards of a million copies. Though that number pales in comparison to diamond records such as Green Day’s Dookie, this was a feat the band managed to achieve all their own. That is, with all the punch seen from major label bands.

On the band’s success, NOFX frontman Fat Mike has come out in what could be called an air of confusion. “The biggest songs on the album don’t have choruses,” he said in 2014. “You generally don’t see bands who write songs without a chorus…I had no idea we were going sell that big. Gold? That was probably the furthest thing from our mind.”

Throughout all of this, the album seems to know exactly what it’s getting itself into. Riffs and melodies crafted and perfected for this album would still sound great played in a concert today just as any other band’s. This is to say that the songs on this album are timeless.

The Future

After almost 35 years of rocking hard and flying to shows on S&M Airlines, NOFX is returning with their latest album, First Ditch Effort, on October 7th of this year. The album drops alongside Green Day’s Revolution Radio and Sum 41’s 13 Voices.
All four of the band’s members – Fat Mike, Eric Melvin, El Hefe, and Eric Sandin – are returning for the band’s thirteenth album, maintaining a lineup that’s held firm since 1991.


Next week’s review: Sum 41’s “All Killer, No Filler”