Review

Sum 41 have always seemed like blink-182's baby brothers, right down to their nonsensical numbers in the name, so it's only appropriate that they're also attempting to grow up just like blink -- or better still, a bit like blink and a bit like Green Day, who have proven to be the standard-bearers for how latter-day punks can grow a social conscience and become mature, as evidenced by American Idiot. Sporting a similar-sounding but not as politically potent title in Underclass Hero, Sum 41's fifth studio album extends upon its predecessor Chuck's deliberate attempt at getting serious and relevant, giving the impression that they're telling a story, creating an anthem for the "underclass hero," the slacker who can't be labeled as an underachiever because he never attempts to achieve. The first couple songs here -- the fists-in-the-air wannabe anthem title track, the narcissistic self-loathing "Walking Disaster" -- hit as hard as processed pedal distortion can, but Sum 41 (now down to a trio after the departure of guitarist Dave Baksh) soon abandon any larger narrative as they start to stretch out with acoustic guitars, keyboards, and Queen harmonies uncannily reminiscent of My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade. Despite these flashy accoutrements, Sum 41 don't want to be emo, they don't want to be prog, they don't even aspire to the mock the U2 atmospherics of Angels and Airwaves; they want to be nothing more than predictable punk-pop. Like all Sum 41 albums, Underclass Hero is ingratiating and hooky enough to have momentum but not enough to linger in the memory. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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