From the opening sounds of GOOD CHARLOTTE’s fourth album Good Morning Revival -- which launches with an artful, innovative sound collage that slides into the irresistible “Misery”-- it’s evident that the world-famous band who’ve sold over nine million albums has revolutionized its sound for 2007. And by the time the optimistic parting shot “March On” rolls around, it’s evident that this is the vibrant, adventurous and unexpected rock album that has redefined the group.
Returning to work with producer Don Gilmore (Pearl Jam, Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne) -- who helmed Good Charlotte’s eponymous 2000 breakthrough debut -- was the decisive change that reinvigorated the band. After a pair of successful albums like 2002’s tremendously popular triple platinum The Young and the Hopeless and 2004’s subsequent million-selling follow-up The Chronicles of Life and Death (which were realized with producer Eric Valentine), GC singer Joel Madden says its modus operandi on Good Morning Revival (Epic/Daylight) was simply to “make a record that we loved and that felt good.”
In an effort to achieve that goal, Gilmore challenged Joel and his identical twin, Good Charlotte’s guitarist Benji Madden, to bring their A game. And he was highly critical. “We threw out 50 or 60 songs and pretty much started over,” Benji says. “Don was like, ‘I want to reinvent you guys. I want people to ask themselves, ‘Is that Good Charlotte?’”
“We wanted to love every track,” bassist Paul Thomas explains. “Our goal this time out was to make it an awesome listen straight through. No fucking filler, man.”
For the Maddens, who -- unlike their bandmates Paul, guitarist/keyboardist Billy Martin and new Good Charlotte drummer Dean Butterworth -- had become fixtures of the paparazzi-addled L.A. nightclub scene as well as prominent DJs, the opportunity to ship up to Vancouver to create new music was absolutely necessary and remarkably fruitful.
The first day in British Columbia the Maddens had the bulk of “Victim of Love,” the contagious harmony-laden rock & roll song, down. “We knew we were onto something,” Joel explains. And literally every day it was like we were writing a new song. After two months in Canada, isolating ourselves and getting away from everything that we were comfortable with was amazing. We came away with most of what you hear on this record.”
By the time the group officially hit the studio with Gilmore, the downtime between its last tour and its official reconvening was as therapeutic as it was motivational. “The fact that we were able to stop, take a deep breath and kind of find some appreciation for all that we’ve accomplished has a lot to do with why this record sounds as vital and electrifying as it does,” says Martin. “We used to just take every offer that came our way and we’d never get much in the way of downtime. Now that we’ve had that time off it feels like a new band in a lot of ways.”
One of the album’s highlights is its first single: the blistering, unforgettable rocker “The River,” an impassioned song about sin and redemption that traverses the dark side of Los Angeles. For the song, the band brought longtime friends and fellow musicians M. Shadows and Synyster Gates (of Avenged Sevenfold) into the mix, marking the first time Good Charlotte has officially collaborated with another artist on an album. It turned out to be a natural fit for both bands.
“We’ve been friends with Avenged for a longtime. This wasn’t planned, but it ended up working out,” Joel explains. “We were sitting around listening to some new music and they liked that song so we asked them to jump on. It felt right and sounded really cool. Aside from being friends of ours, we’re also fans of their music and since this is our first collaboration, we couldn’t be happier that they’re a part of our record.”
Good Morning Revival sustains its momentum with tracks like the fuzzy, club-driven “Dancefloor Anthem” and the genre-defying, Gorillaz-like You Tube favorite “Keep Your Hands Off My Girl” (which was introduced to audiences on the band’s U.S. fall 2006 tour and will be the lead single in Europe, Asia and South America). Good Charlotte has proven that it can thrive in a number of musical realms.
“Honestly, the first time I heard it, I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? People will never know that’s a Good Charlotte song,” concedes Billy. “And then Joel’s like, ‘Well, that’s the point!’ But soon enough it had me in its clutches.”
“It’s kind of weird,” Joel says. “That song takes a lot of balls. I know some people will listen to it and probably think, ‘No thank you.’ It’s definitely not as if we sat down and penned a piece of art. It’s kind of like a sarcastic take on the whole club scene.”
Elsewhere, on the hard-charging dance beat-steered rocker, “Misery” -- in which the singer observes the “tacky, plastic, shallow, empty” people that distinguish the City of Angels -- the keyboards are really pronounced. While the gorgeous “A Beautiful Place,” which evokes strains of Travis, The Beach Boys and the Flaming Lips, asserts that Good Charlotte is as much of a bona fide pop band and serious chart contender as it is a techno group or a punk quintet.
“I wrote that song in Mexico,” Benji says of “A Beautiful Place.” “I was down there during hurricane season and I was in this beautiful beach environment. I had a night off and I was just thinking about how lucky I’ve been. “That’s a real Dean [Butterworth] moment. It was different when we wrote it, but then Dean started playing that real pronounced drum part. The drums are part of the hook. And it changed the whole sound.”
Speaking of new vibes, the ups and downs of relationships propel rock anthems like “Break Her Heart” and the opposites attract tack of “Something Else.” These songs, along with the tender, melodic ballad “Where Would We Be,” find Joel -- who recently ended a lengthy, highly-publicized relationship with a certain movie star -- putting his feelings out there for public scrutiny. “I’m sure people are going to say these songs are about this or that,” he admits. “Love is a big part of me and I’ve accepted that and it’s in my music. And I’m not afraid to just show it.”
Such honesty coupled with success and personal growth couldn’t help but inform Good Morning Revival. “This record shows a lot more of us than anything we’ve done in the past,” Benji says. “Because it’s hard to be an angry kid, all mad at the world when you’ve got it so good. I mean, that angst will always be there for Joel and I because of the way we grew up. Our father wasn’t the best role model as people know. But I definitely have a moment every day where I go, ‘Wow. What a rad life.’ I look at myself as being really blessed.”
To which Joel adds, “It’s been a roller coaster ride for us in our own little way. We were up, then we kind of went down a bit. But now we’re up again. I think our new record has really been as much about looking back as it is about moving forward. We’ve realized a lot, and I’m really grateful that we’re still doing what we love.”
Revitalized and inspired, Good Morning Revival finds Good Charlotte at its creative pinnacle.