Good Charlotte return for the second time since their lengthy hiatus, but rather than attempting to retread the glory of their youth, this time they are delving into subjects of a far deeper and darker nature. With subject matters that include mental health, the Opioid crisis, mass tragedy and the death of musical icons, this is at times a world away from the bright and breezy pop-punk of the past and at times feels like an entirely different band.
By looking deep into themselves, they have re-energised and rediscovered a fire that burns even brighter here. The very nature of these themes lend themselves to an edgier mood, and it goes without saying that it is a heavy listen at times. While ’Self Help’ sticks closely to their classic sound of old, ‘Shadow Boxer’ leans more into a heavier, angst-dripping sound that is reminiscent of Linkin Park both stylistically and lyrically. As Joel Madden screams "Alone inside, I wish that I could die" at its crescendo, it is both haunting, harrowing and a fitting tribute to his friend and hero.
That mood that rarely lets up as the Maddens have clearly exorcised some demons in the writing of the album. ‘Leech’ (complete with a helping hand from Architects’ Sam Carter) confirms that “You could never treat these wounds, how long they’ve been open” while ‘Prayers’ asks what is the use of thoughts and prayers while mass tragedies continue to happen.
Thankfully, respite from the enveloping darkness comes in the form of an ambition sound forged again with producer Zakk Cervini who, alongside Benji, helps the band to juggle different styles without it ever feeling messy or disconnected. ‘Cold Song’ may as well turn up in a package marked “arena use only” so perfectly crafted is it for a lighters and phones in the air moment, while the closing ‘California (The Way I Say I Love You)’ ends with an optimistic message that darkness always fades into light eventually.
22 years down the line, ‘Generation RX’ may be the best album that Good Charlotte have made yet, and it will undoubtedly act as a life-raft for many to cling on to during the toughest of times.