Alright, so I know of Sum 41, I think we’ve all heard In Too Deep in a teen-movie soundtrack at some point in our lives, but I’ve never sat down and listen to a whole album by them until this one. It was an album I had heard a few things about near the end of last year as people were talking about which albums they liked best in 2019. So I was on a train one morning and I saw that I had saved this album to listen to later and I thought “why not?” and clicked play.
I’m not entirely sure why I had a certain sound in my head for what this album would sound like since I didn’t really know the band but I was a bit shocked by how much I enjoyed the sound they went for here.
I was watching an interview on BUILD Series with Deryck Whibley where he said the music portion of a song is always written first and the lyrics always come last which I find interesting because it was definitely the instrumentation of this record that I was first drawn to. Usually the lyrics are a big part of why I enjoy a record but for most of this one I got lost in the music side of things–even on re-listens.
The guitars and drums are so driving in this record that it was kind of overwhelming the first time I listened to it. I mean, just listen to the opening of The People VS… The drums (Frank Zummo) can be fast-paced and chaotic, then the next song they can be like a heartbeat–steady and consistent–to give a song the structure it needs.
The guitar (Dave Baksh and Tom Thacker) and bass (Jason McCaslin) on this album is amazing. They pull the songs forward at such a breathtaking pace. And then they can be cut out and the listener is left in this strange suspension of time.
And then there are moments like Never There that are beautiful, quieter moments of reflection–and a little bit of hope. This album does a wonderful job at getting the most out of opening up space in the music, whether for the lyrics or to control for emotion.
I wouldn’t say that there are any songs in particular that I disliked and overall, this is a much better album than I was expecting it to be.
However, there is the last song, Catching Fire. This is more of a personal opinion but it was a bit too sappy for me, at least sonically. I’m not a sentimental person so songs that gear towards hopeful optimism tend to brush right past me. Of course, I recognize that this is a personal preference but it did mean the album ended on a weak note for me.
But even if we focus on the more hard-driving songs for a moment, this album has a lot going on–maybe a bit too much. It took a couple listens just for me to dig through the sounds on any given track to get at what was actually happening. There is something to be said for this being a representation of a chaotic mind given the state of the world. However, if the message gets berried then the message is basically lost. It would have been nice to have more moments of rest and contemplation in this album.
Favourite Track: 45 (A Matter Of Time)
I find it really interesting that this was a political song that the writer didn’t want to write. And yet, I understand the thought process. I found myself asking “do I really want to talk about another political song?” At a certain point it becomes too much, right? But I find the intention of this song to be slightly different from other in a similar subject.
Whibley voices his hesitation to write a song about the 45th president of the United States because he wanted his music to be an escape then to be a focus of his frustrations. To me, that’s what this song feels like–frustration manifesting itself through a musical medium. There is a tendency to comment on political issues when writing a song like this or to give itself over to rage without having anything useful to say. However, this song feels more like an internal turmoil and trying to make sense of the rage.
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I had a bit of a hard time talking about this album and I think this had to do with me being pretty luke warm about it. There’s no one song I can point to and say “that blew my mind” or “I can’t stop listening to it”. But I also enjoy the album while I’m listening to it.
If I had to give a summary of my thoughts I would say that I liked it but I probably won’t come back to it in full. Maybe I’ll listen to a few of the songs because they come up as I shuffle through music but I won’t actively seek it out.