Music Reviews
Youth Authority

Good Charlotte Youth Authority

(MDDN) Rating - 5/10

Pop punk acts like Good Charlotte frequently operate on the premise that the music they make—and by extension the fans they cultivate—are in some way different. They're wise to the system; unconventional; transgressive. They wear black. They play guitars. But hiding on the flip side of that assumption is an understanding that teen angst and triumphant rule-breaking are as universal (and indeed commercial) as love, sex, or money. Good Charlotte (as well as bands like Blink-182, Simple Plan, or Linkin Park) understand this at some level, and as a result have maintained a decent fan-following long after Y2K. Yes, the guitars crunch, but the hooks are as bold as any pop star's and the whoa-ohs send fists in the air by the thousands. In short, nothing produced by Good Charlotte and their ilk can be considered unconventional or transgressive. But as long as we're not under any illusions, that fact doesn't need to matter.

Indeed, age has not abated the mall rat-mentality that the Madden brothers & co. once boasted at the turn of the millennium. Youth Authority is a testament to the resilience of their energy, even as the band headbangs towards middle age. It's an energy that manifests itself sometimes in cringey nostalgia, other times in uninspired sentimentalism, but mostly it's anthemic and endearing. 40 oz. Dream falls into the first category—by the time the first verse is done, we've given up feeling any second-hand embarrassment over lines such as "I called my shrink to see if I was healthy/ I called my mom and she was taking selfies." Life Can't Get Much Better and The Outfield are completely unnecessary exercises in schmaltz (eyes start rolling when an almost 40-year old Joel Madden sings "I was thinking about school/ It was so fucking painful"). But tracks like Life Changes, Makeshift Love, and War remind us of the thrill of wall-pounding riffs and snappy choruses, equal parts shiny and gritty, pop punk at its finest.

Between the release of their debut in 2000 and now, no grand developments have occurred in the way people rally, rage, lament, or celebrate. The only difference is that pop punk is no longer the favored or most profitable outlet for those reactions. As a result, songs like Simple Plan's Welcome to My Life seem dated; Avril Lavigne seems unable to land a hit no matter how much eyeliner she wears; Green Day can safely say they peaked in the 90s. But on Youth Authority, Good Charlotte bet on the same formula that made them big, one that they've perfected and trademarked. It works. Despite their age, no one can say they don't know how to harness the powers of youth.