5/10It’s surprising to me to find Sum 41 still apparently making music. Their recent career (ignoring drunken public appearance and artistic finagling) teetered on quality pop-punk and that band you liked in middle school. Maybe a little of both.

There are very few bands who can earn critical acclaim and still be nostalgically centered. The truth is, what we liked in middle school and High School has a certain little charm, but may not be…well…good (See Limp Bizkit, Korn, or System of a Down to get an idea of what I mean).

The below picture is funny. Maybe too funny? Well, that’s exactly what Sum 41 thought when they released this new album absolutely devoid of any humor, which was a staple with their debut album Half Hour of Power which was essentially an homage to power metal, and All Killer No Filler featuring arguably their most famous song,Fat Lip.

But people grow up. They get older. They get less funny. bands of this genre particularly seem to make a conscious effort to mature or be cast into the mold of rebellious pop-punk- and become a one-trick pony.

Regardless, Screaming Bloody Murder is exactly what I expected. This isn’t particularly a bad thing.I expected elements of metal as seen in their record Chuck from 2004. That appears quite clear in songs like Happiness Machine and the title track, Screaming Bloody Murder. I also expected a pop lean, with a focus on melody and typical pop construct similar to Underclass Hero.   This album is a nice little mix of those, and is absolutely superior to anything they have put out since 2004.

Unfortunately, Sum 41 are dangerously close to being a middle school band, despite many considering them that already. Unlike contemporaries, they really can write a tune. Skumfuck is just a blast to listen to as isHoly Images of Lies. I feel like front man Deryck Whibley has something to say here, but the lyrics are bland and too uninteresting for me to decipher the message. Guess it goes with the genre.

The album is, as disgustingly cliche as it to say, more mature. Coming off a four-year musical break and some line-up changes, Sum 41 have reevaluated what they need to do to stay relevant. Sick of Everyone is a heavy tune, and carries a weight not seen since Chuck’s 88 so many years ago. And they do attempt a few different styles and experimentation, switching from some sort of sing-songy portion, and then picking it up later in the song with a near breakdown. It’s less jarring than one might think. The album isn’t completely void of a sappy ballad- congratulations Crash, you win for being the over-indulgent power ballad of the bunch. These type of songs CAN be done right. This one was not.

Sum 41 do know how to properly close a record, as Back Where I Belong is not only one of the heaviest but most appealing tracks on the record, and put to a closure that was well needed. The album does go on to include a 2 minute acoustic track with odd distorted vocals, and I’m not quite sure what it’s doing there.

This album does have a few highlights. It also has some shit. I’m afraid for those of you who still listen to full albums, you’ll be a doing a bit of skipping around. But Screaming Bloody Murder does have some quality tracks, and though it’s not Sum 41 taking massive steps forward, they do hold tight at what they do best. They add nice elements of experimentation, tone down the comedy, and deliver an awkwardly serious but entirely tolerable album that may be forgotten in a few years- but still keeps the interest long enough to say ‘Hey I remember Sum 41…their kind of cool.”