|Studio album by Sum 41|
|Released||July 18, 2007|
|Recorded||November 6, 2006–March 14, 2007 at Ocean Way Studios, Los Angeles, California; Sound City Studios, Van Nuys, California; Sage & Sound Studios, Hollywood, California|
|Genre||Pop punk, punk rock, alternative rock|
|Sum 41 studio album chronology|
|Singles from Underclass Hero|
Underclass Hero is the fourth studio album by Canadian rock band, Sum 41. It is the only record that was released with only three members in the band, since Dave Baksh left a year early to focus on Brown Brigade. The album was first released July 18, 2007 in Japan. It was released under the Island Records label and distributed worldwide by Universal Records, by Aquarius Records. The album cover features a photo with singer Deryck Whibley spitting. This album features more alternative rock songs than their previous albums. The album gained success on the Canadian and on the United States album charts, peaking at #1 on the Canadian Albums Chart and at #7 on the U.S. Billboard 200. It received very mixed reviews upon release, with some critics praising its mature subject matter and style, while others criticized it for being unoriginal. It is also Sum 41's last release on Aquarius.
In 2004, Sum 41 released Chuck, which became a success upon release, gaining high success on the charts and receiving critical acclaim. The album had a more heavy metal-influenced sound, and the band gained multiple awards. The band spent most of 2006 touring in the support of Chuck until the lead guitarist Dave Baksh had left the band in 2006 due to arguing with Deryck about the band's musical direction afterwards. Deryck wanted to go to an "artistic pop punk style" while Baksh wanted to play in a more heavy metal-styled band. Baksh left to form his own band Brown Brigade.
The album title's similarity to John Lennon's hit "Working Class Hero" is not a coincidence, according to the band's front man Deryck Whibley, who in an interview with Sun Media claimed Lennon as his favorite songwriter.
|“||"I had to decide what I wanted to say with my music, I asked myself all these questions and then just pulled up my own answers and started writing songs based on those themes. I wanted to make an album that meant something important from beginning to end. I wanted it to have relevance and significance. It's a deeply personal statement that reflects the confusion and frustration in modern society."||”|
Recording And Production
After Baksh's departure, the band took a break from touring in mid-2006. In November 2006, Deryck started sending in demos to their studio for recording ideas. The band would return to the studio to record a new album. During the production of the album, Deryck decided to take the band to a different and more "orchestrated" direction. Deryck didn't want production of the albumin the first place, and admitted to "never looking forward to it", but since they were unable to find a different producer, Deryck had to take the part of producing for himself. Although, Deryck never admitted the album as an official rock opera, but mentioned that the album was written with a unified concept held together.
During the album's production, the band rehearsed a lot, and Deryck constantly wrote different things for the album. Deryck felt that this would work to the album's advantage, and Deryck also said "Usually, the first things I come up with are terrible, so I continued writing and told myself that most of them would suck. So I showed everyone what I wrote and then I looked through them all and picked the best ones in the end." Deryck also admitted to being paranoid of writing, and was worried how it would turn out in the end.
Deryck's ambition was to make "the most artistic punk rock record possible", and that the album "needed to show what punk rock meant but stay melodic." Deryck also felt that this was the direction the band should have taken after their debut album.
Deryck had more time to write during the production of the album, and wrote all of the songs himself. He and bassist Jason "Cone" McCaslin would often argue about the sound and how it should be. This was mostly because of the fact that Deryck wanted the songs to be "more powerful", while McCaslin wanted to have more variety in the sound.
Deryck decided to be original with the songwriting, and said that "the only way to be completely be original is to write about myself. So I decided to look into my thoughts that I'd never even touched and came up with all of these topics that were very deep and personal." Drummer Steve Jocz mentioned in an interview that the things Deryck wrote were so personal that even the band members didn't know about them in the past. Jocz mentioned that Deryck "doesn't open up with anyone outside the band". Deryck thought this would make people like the album more because it's more "honest". McCaslin felt that writing like this was a big move because "letting the whole world know about things like Deryck not knowing his father seemed hard things to write about."
The overall recording and production went from November 6, 2006 to March 14, 2007. The album was finally released in July of 2007. It was the first new material to be released without former guitarist Dave Baksh.
Structure and lyrical themes
Underclass Hero has been called a concept album following life seen through Deryck Whibley's eyes, with politics, religion, and family being certain subjects mentioned.
The title track is focused on a theme of "us against them", similar to their previous lyrics. Although "Underclass Hero" is written from a different angle, the song refers prominently to society and the struggle of "high-class versus the underclass" instead of "youth against adults" as in All Killer, No Filler. The song also uses the more classic punk-rock themes of anti-establishment. Walking Disaster is a classic, upbeat pop-punk song, drawing similarities from "March of the Dogs" (another song on the album). According to Whibley, the song illustrates his tattered childhood and his reflections as an adult. The song, being somewhat chronological, opens with “Mom and Dad both in denial, an only child to take the blame”, a vision of Whibley’s past, damaged by his conflicting parents. "Walking Disaster" ends on an optimistic note, “I can’t wait to see you smile, wouldn’t miss it for the world”, expressing his maturation as an adult, in the light of being able to see things differently and ultimately, understanding his childhood. "Speak of the Devil" focuses on themes of Whibley's personal thoughts on religion and if heaven and hell really exist. "Dear Father" is another chronological song focusing on the relationship between a father and son. Deryck has mentioned this song being based on his relationship with his father, who he never met. "Count Your Last Blessings" focuses on self-abuse, leading to ruined life and sadness. In an interview, Deryck said that this song was based on drug abuse that Deryck suffered in 2002. "Ma Poubelle" is a hidden joke track, which wasn't meant to mean anything special. "March of the Dogs" is based on the poor choices of the government and what it can lead to. "The Jester" is an anti-Bush screed that continues on what "March of the Dogs" established". "Pull The Curtain" is a song that touches on themes like waking up to the paranoia and robotic lives that we live in society. With Me and "Best Of Me" are songs based on love and emotion. Deryck has admitted to these tracks being based on his marriage with Avril Lavigne. "King Of Contradiction" is a song about politics and who should be leading the government. "Confusion And Frustration In Modern Times" focuses on Deryck's opinion on atheism. The song describes Deryck's beliefs that God doesn't exist, as well as describing what might happen to mankind if they keep praying to God. "So Long Goodbye" is a closing track which focuses on the departure of two people. The lyrical themes in this song are based on the departure of Dave Baksh.
Most critics have cited the album as a revival of Sum 41's previous pop punk style in All Killer No Filler as opposed to the alternative metal style in Does This Look Infected? and Chuck. Along with the pop punk elements in the band's beginning years, the album has been described as more "artistic" and "melodic", bringing in an array of different instruments. These instruments include pianos, as used in tracks like "Count Your Last Blessings" and "Pull The Curtain", strings, as used in "So Long Goodbye" and "Dear Father", and horns, as used in tracks like "King Of Contradiction" and "Confusion And Frustration In Modern Times". There have also been different styles of instruments used in this album. Acoustic guitar has been used in tracks such as "So Long Goodbye", and different drum kits were used in several tracks like "Walking Disaster" and "Pull The Curtain". The album has also been described as being "somewhat radio-accessible" while being "experimental and artistic".
Underclass Hero has received mostly mixed and average reviews from music critics, with some praising the songwriting and artistic style, and others negatively comparing it to the likes of Green Day. The review website Metacritic has given it an average score of 50/100 based on 12 reviews. The A.V. Club gave the album a positive review, calling it "the band's smartest and most mature sounding album yet." Billboard also reacted well, saying that "its growth feels genuine and, unlike Sum 41's punk peers, its musical maturation doesn't come at the expense of that all-important snotty 'tude." On the other hand,The Guardian gave the album a negative review, saying "Sentiments are rendered as blandly as lazy graffiti tags, with the music accompanying them as bold and portentous as a light shower." Sputnikmusic gave the album a harsh review, saying that it "tries its best to be profound and musically challenging, however its only success is found, without exception, in the tracks which drop the pretense entirely and return to the formula which made the group popular to begin with."
Mike D of Blogcritics gave the album a C, saying that most the album "sounds like someone else’s, not Sum 41′s. 'With Me' could easily be mistaken for Yellowcard and 'March of the Dogs' might as well be a Green Day song." However, he also added "There is one huge factor in all this that can turn the tables for this album: the lyrics. Underclass Hero is lyrically far better than anything Sum has ever done. Several times, I found myself not liking the songs as they first began, but liking them by the end."
Despite mixed reviews, the album was generally well-received by the fans. On Metacritic, the user score is a 6.7 out of 10, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
In Canada, Underclass Hero debuted at #1 on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling just over 9,000 copies in its first week. In the United States, the album sold 44,601 copies in its first week and debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200, making it their highest chart positioning to date in the U.S. It has sold 183,638 copies as of March 2011.
All songs written and composed by Deryck Whibley, except where noted.
|1.||"Underclass Hero" (Deryck Whibley/Steve Jocz)||3:14|
|3.||"Speak of the Devil"||3:58|
|5.||"Count Your Last Blessings"||3:03|
|6.||"Ma Poubelle" (Deryck Whibley/Steve Jocz)||0:55|
|7.||"March of the Dogs"||3:09|
|10.||"Pull the Curtain"||4:18|
|11.||"King of Contradiction"||1:40|
|12.||"Best of Me"||4:25|
|13.||"Confusion and Frustration in Modern Times"||3:46|
|14.||"So Long Goodbye"||3:01|
|15.||"Look at Me" (not available on all editions; hidden track; starts at 2:00)||4:03|
|16.||"No Apologies (bonus track)"||2:58|
|17.||"Take a Look at Yourself"||3:24|
|18.||"This Is Goodbye (bonus track)"||2:26|
|Japan||July 18, 2007|
|Canada/Europe||July 23, 2007|
|United States||July 24, 2007|
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