For a while back there it seemed our youth was utterly, utterly doomed. With Blink 182 still in spluttering fits at the idea of excretion as they fast approach their thirties and ‘It’s Just Porn Mum’ horrifying international health agencies with news that the Dumbteen Virus has spread as far as the Netherlands, it looked like a whole generation would be blighted forever by an infantile sexism and an encyclopaedic knowledge of euphemisms for wanking.
But call back the extermination squads! They can grow out of it! “Suddenly I don’t feel so insecure” begins Sum 41‘s third album ‘Does This Look Infected?’ and what follows is the death rattle of a cumbersome puberty. ‘…Infected?’ is more sophisticated, angrier, ballsier and packs more punky spunk per night-time emission than the pop-heavy ‘All Killer, No Filler’, and it’s concerns are now pointedly post-BCG. Where ‘All Killer…’ bristled with thorny issues of the adolescent’s day (girls, bitches, people with tits), here Derrick Whibley takes a step out of the S&M club’s ‘specialist interest’ cubicles and into the chasm of his inner turmoil. There’s eulogies on teen suicide (‘My Direction’, ‘Over My Head (Better Off Dead)’), Derrick’s persistent sleeping difficulties (‘Hyper-Insomnia-Para-Condroid’) and generally being all messed up (‘All Messed Up’), all savagely devoured by guitars that’ve grown hair in places they never expected.
Trouble is, as grown up and grouchy as Sum 41 may have become (on record, if not in Strokes-mocking video), they sure aint no Fugazi. In fact, suck the puerility kiddiness out of the peurile kiddie rock band and you’re not left with a mature rock monolith but a bunch of skate kids ricocheting between Green Day, The Offspring and A in search of a niche. After an opening batch of growly pop killers – ‘Still Waiting’, ‘The Hell Song’ – the swamp of chugga-chugga punk-pop mundanity runs deep, right up to a brace of painfully trite metal pastiches called ‘Reign In Pain’ and ‘WWVII Part II’. ‘Individuality’ and ‘imagination’ are still foreign words to Sum 41, but at least ‘Does This Look Infected?’ is a promise to go to classes.