September 10, 2018 Good Charlotte – Generation Rx (Album Review)
Good Charlotte are a band who have always had their fingers on the pulse of positivity. They made us all hold on when we felt like letting go – and they’re already the Youth Authority – but on Friday, September 14, 2018, they up the hopeful ante with Generation Rx, which arrives thanks to BMG.
How does one even begin to summarize Good Charlotte’s two-decades-plus career? Formed in 1996 while twin brothers Joel and Benji Madden were still in high school, the quintet proudly call Waldorf, Maryland home. Starting life as a Pop-Punk outfit, Good Charlotte (affectionately known as simply “GC”) went on to release their infectious, self-titled debut in 2000, before they exploded onto MTV with their massive commercial success, 2002’s The Young and the Hopeless. Singles such as “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous,” “The Anthem,” “Girls & Boys,” and “Hold On” made the band a household name for a generation of hopelessly hopeful teens.
Media darlings, Good Charlotte racked up a bevy of accolades for themselves that helped propel further releases: the darkly moody magnificence of The Chronicles of Life and Death (2004), dance-able confection Good Morning Revival (2007), and a return to their roots on 2010’s Cardiology cemented Good Charlotte as a Pop Rock band that was a viable commodity even beyond their Pop-Punk roots. Then, they took a hiatus for a few years – in which Joel and Benji released The Madden Brother’s Greetings from California – before triumphantly returning with 2016’s Youth Authority.
Now, Good Charlotte – Vocalist Joel Madden, Guitarist/Vocalist Benji Madden, Guitarist/Keyboardist Billy Martin, Bassist Paul Thomas, and Drummer Dean Butterworth – return yet again with their seventh full-length studio offering, Generation Rx. A response to the current opioid epidemic devastating America, the 9-song album was produced by Zakk Cervini (Goldfinger, One OK Rock) and Benji during intimate sessions at the Madden brother’s own MDDN headquarters. No surprise here: it is exactly what the doctor ordered!
Generation Rx begins with its namesake, a slow-building introductory track of just over two-minutes. Benji’s wordless, lilting harmonies soar, creating the ultimate ASMR experience before the band builds into something more, with Joel asking some soul-searching questions about life. This explodes into the massive layers of “Self Help,” a self-exploration, a candid confession that turns introspective in its search for the meaning of life. Here, studio accoutrements perfectly accentuate what we will lovingly term the GC mystique, rather than taking over and turning the band into something that they are not. The end result is a track with some personally reflective lyrics that, sonically, has that gentle Pop-Punk influence that flawlessly displays the band’s roots.
Second single/video “Shadowboxer” goes gritty and dark for an infectious rocker that sees the Maddens trading off lead vocal duties as they so flawlessly do. Another glance in the mirror, Good Charlotte’s signature undeniably catchy hooks are at feverish levels here – plus, there are delicious synths and Joel screams. That’s right, Joel Madden screams! If you are shook, it’s okay – up next is first single/video “Actual Pain,” an exploration of what is at the heart of a crisis. Every epidemic has a Typhoid Mary, and pain – personal and otherwise – is at the center of our current situation, particularly the opioid epidemic holding our nation in its grasp. Here, GC offer up their characteristically hopeful harmonies to lend an empathetic hand to the brokenhearted.
Benji takes over lead vocals on the verses of delicate rocker “Prayers,” with its soaring choruses that gently question love and loss as well as faith in our dreary times. Next, piano accompanies Benji (or is it Joel? – damn these twins!) for the intro of the ballad “Cold Song,” a gentle, acoustic and piano-based offering that builds into one exquisitely dazzling guitar solo from Martin. It pairs perfectly with its predecessor, like “Prayers: The Sequel,” if you will.
But, you know, these boys are known for rocking, so they crank it back up with the synth-tastic, edgy rocker “Leech,” which features the exceptional Sam Carter of Architects. They continue this grit with the darker feels of “Better Demons,” fraught with soundbites that focus on the youth of today’s lack of empathy, their sociopathic ‘alone together’-ness thanks to the ironic isolation of social media. If this seems a little depressing, it’s okay – they end with the feel-good “California (The Way I Say I Love You),” with serious shades of the Madden Brothers’ Greetings from California. Here, sparkling, glittering acoustics are like the sunshine twinkling on the California surf, a reason to smile when life’s got you down.
First is the bad news: at 30 minutes runtime, Generation Rx is a literal quick fix. The good news? Well, if this is GC 2018, sign yourself up right now! You can say what you will about Good Charlotte, but the fact is that with twin brothers leading the musical charge, the harmonies are always to die for and everything is backed by the exceptional talents of Martin, Thomas and Butterworth. You can’t argue with infectious hopefulness aimed at today’s youth, especially when it comes from the Youth Authority. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)
From start to finish, Generation Rx reads like a Good Charlotte record should: delicate moments alongside catchy rockers, a smile alongside the clear-cut understanding for why, some days, we just have to frown. Spreading an epidemic of optimism in the face of modern tragedy, Good Charlotte are doing themselves proud with the infectious Generation Rx. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Good Charlotte’s Generation Rx 4.5 of 5 stars.