Just as Good Charlotte were starting to think about the follow-up to 2004's The Chronicles of Life and Death, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong gave the band some advice.
"He told us, 'You guys are good, don't ever hold back. Just do whatever you want and everything will fall into place,' " Benji Madden recalled during a break from a recent studio session. "For someone like that, who you look up to, to say something like that, you just feel like, 'Yeah, we can do anything we want. We can take a chance.' "
The first thing Good Charlotte did was something the band had never really done since forming in Waldorf, Maryland, in the mid-'90s: They took a break.
Rather than returning right to the studio, the guys got personal lives again. Guitarist Billy Martin painted and Benji and Joel Madden started producing other artists and DJing around Hollywood.
"This was our first real break, and I think it was just time for us to do that," singer Joel Madden said. "We've been working really hard for the last six or seven years, and we just decided to live our lives for six months and see where each one of us were at."
When the urge to record again finally overcame them, Good Charlotte started writing songs and, for the first time, kept writing. By the time they had some 70 songs, the guys started feeling confident.
"They just felt like us," Benji said of the tunes. "It didn't feel like we were trying."
Picking up where The Chronicles of Life and Death's "I Just Wanna Live" left off, the new material works hip-hop and dance elements into the band's pop-punk foundation, paying homage to some of their favorite acts like Morrissey and Depeche Mode.
"It sounds like the new Good Charlotte," Joel Madden explained, only half-joking. "It's not techno, but we've been sitting still in this new world going, 'What the hell's going on?' We decided to get with the program. Our albums are always lyrically driven, but this one's more about how it hits your soul. And it feels good."
Of the songs Good Charlotte previewed for MTV News, the biggest deviation is "Keep Your Hands Off My Girl," which features Joel rapping lines like, "You carry Dior bags and you got your Chanel" and "I got brass knuckles hanging from my chain" over a pulsating beat. The chorus, which he sings in falsetto, sounds like a lost Killers track.
"That song's about how we'll show up at a club [to DJ] and there will be all these indie kids and they're like [turning up his nose], 'The guy from Good Charlotte is DJing tonight!' " Joel explained. "And then I'll play music and they'll be dancing all night. So it's kind of sarcastic, but our music has always had some humor in it."
"There is this one great episode of 'Full House' where Uncle Joey told Stephanie, 'If you make fun of yourself first ... ,' " Benji added, before being corrected by his brother.
" 'If you make them laugh at you, they are with you,' " Joel said. "We are just more confident and we wanted to do that song, so we did it."
Good Morning Revival! (see [article id="1541174"]"Good Charlotte Celebrate Happier Sound, Sober Outlook On Good Morning Revival!"[/article]), due in early February, opens with another upbeat (at least, musically) dance tune called "Misery."
"Look at all these happy people/ Living their lives," Joel sings over a track heavy on bass and keyboards. "Looking at all these plastic people, there's nothing inside."
"We live in a world full of distraction, and no one is supposed to be sad or feel anything but great and happy and do whatever it takes to be happy," Joel said of the lyrics. "But sometimes it feels good not to feel good. And it's OK to just be yourself. And if you wear all black and you like to listen to dark music or whatever, just be yourself. But we want our music just to feel good, so there are a lot of dance elements for sure."
In fact, one track is straight-up titled "Dance Floor Anthem."
"This is a feel-good song," Joel said as he previewed their happy take on a breakup song. "It's like, don't stay in your room in the dark in bed. Get out there and meet somebody, have a good time. You don't have to meet your girlfriend tonight, but go have a good time. Forget about it. Don't buy into the drama. It's like, everybody breaks up, we all go through it. Tonight, when you hear this song, just don't be in love, just have fun."
The looming question for Good Charlotte is how the punk band will perform all the dance material live.
"I still don't know," said Martin, the band's resident programmer. "I'm losing sleep every night deciding how we are going to do it, but we will be able to figure it out."