Published Sep 13, 2018After performing at the memorial for emo rap icon Lil Peep, who died from a drug overdose at 21, Good Charlotte were inspired to step up as "older brothers in the scene" and tackle the opioid crisis, self-medication and the underlying battle with mental illness on Generation RX.
It's the kind of focus they needed after comeback album Youth Authority, which at times felt scattershot, especially on the out-of-touch "Old Man Yells At Cloud" song "40 oz. Dream." It's helped along by the short runtime (nine songs, one of which is an intro), though that also hurts in feeling like you got a full album.
The cohesion extends to the music, too, as there's a sullen mood akin to recent Bring Me the Horizon or Linkin Park, thanks to a heavy use of orchestration. After the titular intro track, "Self Help" continually charges itself up and explodes, sharing the most DNA with their pop punk foundation, while followup tracks (and lead singles) "Shadowboxer" and "Actual Pain" rein in the energy, but keep emotions high and hooks sharp.
Softer songs cut the album in half and are split down the middle in terms of effectiveness. The sparkling and jangly reflection on school shootings, "Prayers," succeeds where the Disney ballad "Cold Song" doesn't. A return to edgy alt-rock on "Leech" — complete with a Matt Skiba-esque guest spot from Architects' Sam Carter — and "Better Demons" shine the spotlight on "California (The Way I Say I Love You)," making it glaringly obvious that the sunny song, though not bad, is out of place.
Still, it feels sincere as a love song for the kids of leading twins Joel and Benji Madden. Actually, the entire album feels sincere, even if some of the lyrics are a bit melodramatic. That's always been the sweet spot for Good Charlotte, though. Even though they can't say it's by the kids and for the kids anymore, they're evidently at their best when they put on masks and write for a younger demographic.
On Generation RX, Good Charlotte regain their connection with the Youth they claimed to be an Authority on by speaking to them, not at them. Funnily enough, focusing on darkness and dealing with it has provided them with a light to chase and pushed the gleam at the end of their tunnel farther into the distance. This band of brothers and their bros still have something crucial to offer. (MDDN)