The dour title The Chronicles of Life and Death is the first indication that Good Charlotte have moved beyond juvenile humor — like celebrity bashing ("Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous"), heavy-handed self-deprecation ("The Young and the Hopeless") and the shallow, material differences between the sexes ("Girls & Boys") — that marked their last album.
The other indication that this definitely isn't the same pop-punk band as before hits you like a blind-sided slap almost immediately upon hearing a sample of their third album, which is due October 5: Absent from the six-song preview are the bouncy, pogo-inducing melodies, sing-songy vocals and accelerated tempos. Dynamic tunes with textures, depth, and even keyboards (courtesy of guitarist Billy Martin) take their place.
"I'd say this is the happiest I've been with anything we've done," boasted guitarist Benji Madden. "When you hear it, it sounds like Good Charlotte — it just sounds like we did a lot of growing up in the last two years."
The album's first single, "Predictable," introduces such musical sophistication with a string arrangement, but before you assume that Good Charlotte have morphed into Coldplay, singer Joel Madden breaks into a broken-hearted, spoken-word rant. "The World Is Black" is, unsurprisingly, a depressing tune and features the chorus of "The World is black/ Hearts are cold/ There's no hope/ That's what we're told," but the keyboards add an unexpected bounce. "Walk Away" blends pummeling hard-rock verses with rudimentary indie-rock strumming. Only the tentatively titled "Chronicles," which may take on the full name of the album, features a classic punk stomp.
Blink-182's latest, untitled album, a relatively dark departure from their previous work, is a good pop-punk comparison.
"It's a little more serious," Joel said.
"But there's definitely some fun moments, too," Benji countered, so as not to position the album as solely for misanthropes. "I definitely think the main message of our band is hope, and a running theme in this record, too, is hope."
Chronicles is also something of a collector's item for GC's fans. Two versions will be issued: a Life album and a Death album, each bolstered by a different bonus track. Guitarist Martin created different cover artwork for each album. Chronicles, which was recorded earlier this year in Los Angeles (see "Good Charlotte Pursue Pop-Punk Perfection On New Album"), is also expected to feature a few guests, though no one was confirmed yet.
Besides the improved musicianship, the lyrics and themes on the album have also grown up a bit. "We spent a lot of time in the last two years on the road, dealing with relationships and success," Benji explained.
"It's a very human record, and I think people are going to get to know us a lot better when they listen to these songs," Joel said. "These songs are very personal, very human."