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GOOD CHARLOTTE – CARDIOLOGY (Advance Review)

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CardiologyGCCOVERIn many ways, GOOD CHARLOTTE’s 2002 single “Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous” has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the band’s relocation to Los Angeles, and their embrace of the glossy Hollywood lifestyle has in many cases caused their music to take a backseat to brothers Joel and Benji Madden’s tabloid-fodder romances with a variety of starlets. Earlier this week, comic Chelsea Handler even used GOOD CHARLOTTE as a punchline when reporting news regarding Joel Madden and fiance Nicole Richie. That said, hopefully GOOD CHARLOTTE can use CARDIOLOGY as an opportunity to remind listeners that they still make music, and turn some of the focus back to their band and away from their personal exploits…

There was a time when the label “pop punk” was synonymous with GOOD CHARLOTTE. Having hit the scene with their self-titled debut a decade ago, the band has long-since dropped the “punk” as they’ve matured and morphed into more of a straight “rock” band, at times leaning in a much more “pop” direction.

On their fifth album, CARDIOLOGY (due out November 2, 2010 via Capitol Records), the band finds themselves on a new label, and in a position to make or break the future of their career.

With the original version of the album helmed by Howard Benson scrapped in favor of a new recording produced by Don Gilmore (with whom they worked on their first and last albums), the release version of CARDIOLOGY focuses on the heart, bookended by “An Introduction to Cardiology” as the opener, with the title track closing the album. As with most “intros” the one here is an unnecessary and awkward throwaway that should’ve been left off the album.

When the record really starts on the appropriately-titled “Let the Music Play,” the band hints at their punk rock past with an upbeat number that despite highly polished vocal harmonies and a background piano cue, sounds like GC. “Counting the Days” features an intro/verse riff lifted straight from the BLINK-182 playbook, but never finding the payoff that you’d hope for. “Silver Screen Romance” is a potential single, name-dropping Bette Davis and Cary Grant as the band details a whirlwind love affair.

The fifth track brings us to “Like it’s Her Birthday,” the first single and video from the album. Dropping an intro dance beat like something from a FALL OUT BOY record, the pop is here in full force, with synth and harmony overtaking the guitars for much of the song. Honestly, this was a smart choice for a single as it’s the best track on the album.

While “Alive” and “First Plane Home” offer some second-act highlights, much of the album from it’s mid-point feels like filler. From the instrumental “Interlude: The Fifth Chamber” to a few fairly downbeat “ballads” packed in, there isn’t much good to speak of until “Right Where I Belong,” which bears a striking resemblance to ANGELS & AIRWAVES in terms of composition, and should have been the album closer, as it leads into the title track, which brings back the same hokey and awkward feeling brought about by the intro.

Production-wise, Gilmore’s influence is heavy. It’s easy to pick up on some of the same pop sensibilities that made their way into SUGAR RAY and LIT under his production ears, and depending on your tastes, that could be either a very good thing, or a very bad thing.

Overall, CARDIOLOGY is an average album that shows signs of an identity crisis, with GOOD CHARLOTTE seemingly paying tribute to more of their recent influences and peers, while losing much of their own voice in the process.

2.5/5

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