Nearly 15 years ago, few alt/punk/pop bands were as big of a deal as Good Charlotte.
The band’s 2002 album The Young and the Hopeless was on its way to going triple-platinum, their videos for The Anthem and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous were in heavy rotation on MTV, and they were on the road constantly.
There’s no doubt that the 2002-2003 era was the band’s commercial peak, though they did release two more records before going on hiatus in 2011.
Last week, the now-veteran band returned with Youth Authority, their first album in five years and, it’s made quite apparent when listening to it, probably their final output as a musical unit.
Considering many didn’t even expect a new album at all, that’s perfectly acceptable — and if it is indeed their last album together, it’s a strong way to wrap up a career that didn’t always attain the kind of “credibility” of some of their forefathers, among them Green Day and Blink-182.
The songs on Youth Authority, produced by the tireless John Feldmann, are a mostly solid blend of high-energy anthems (such as Life Changes and Keep Swingin’, which features Kellin Quinn of Sleeping with Sirens) and more midtempo crowd-pleasers (such as Life Can’t Get Much Better).
What gives the record its ‘swan song’ feeling lies in the lyrical content from singer Joel Madden, who drops references to the band’s heyday (we were the young and hopeless/we were the broken youth, he sings in the Outfield) in addition to more or less explicitly saying they’re Moving On in the album’s final track.
Two tracks in particular, though, stood out from the rest. The darker-tinged War, with its murky aesthetics and synth, was a definite high point, as was the Best Buy bonus track We’ll Leave It All Out — the latter deserves to have been included on the main album, it’s such a solid piece of songwriting from the band.
The early 2000s-era alt/pop-punk scene spawned several bands, few of which saw Good Charlotte’s level of mainstream success. And yet, the past few years have seen a renewed vibrancy within that genre, with some bands — GC, Sum 41 , the Matches and Blink-182 among them — coming back from the depths to work on new material.
Others, like Motion City Soundtrack and Yellowcard, have enjoyed a final go-around with a swan-song album and retrospective tour. Going back to the early ‘oughts, it might have seem far-fetched to imagine any of these bands still active 15 years later, yet here we are. The pull of nostalgia is strong for many folks when it comes to music, and the continued existence and activity of these bands (and fans’ undying interest in supporting them) is proof.
Good Charlotte’s Youth Authority, then, is a perfect musical encapsulation of those emotions. It’s an album the band did not ‘have’ to make, but there’s enough there to serve as a fitting sign-off from a group that definitely went through the highs and lows of the scene.