“I wear black on the outside because that’s how I feel on the inside,” Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden deadpans when describing his romantic outlook. Though it’s surprising to hear the lead singer of a multiplatinum pop/punk band with a heavy female following quote Morrissey, it’s this darker theme that drives the group’s third Daylight/Epic Records effort, “The Chronicles of Life and Death,” released on Oct. 5.
The band’s signature backdrop of heavy drums and bouncing guitars is in place for the 14-track set, recorded during seven months at producer Eric Valentine’s Barefoot Studios in Los Angeles. But elements of British punk and arena rock showcase the group’s changing style.
“It was where we had to go as a band. We couldn’t remake our last album as much as some people might have wanted us to, or expected us to,” Madden says. “Our fans just want us to be honest, and that’s an ongoing theme throughout this record. The music is the natural progression of changes we’ve gone through, but I don’t think it’s so far-fetched where [our fans] won’t accept it.”
In 2002, Good Charlotte rocketed to the forefront of the pop/punk world with its sophomore effort, “The Young and the Hopeless.” The album bowed at No. 7 on The Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 117,000 copies, while hit singles “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” “Boys and Girls” and “Anthem” boosted the former modern rock band into mainstream top 40 territory. With MTV’s “Total Request Live” crowd behind it, the album has gone on to sell 3 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album has remained on The Billboard 200 since its debut.
“Originally it’s the only thing we could play,” Madden says of the group’s sound, which is heavily influenced by pop/punk acts like Green Day and Rancid. “That’s always going to be an element of our music because that’s part of who we are as a band, but [on “The Young and the Hopeless”] we were a lot younger and had a lot to prove, whether we realized it, or tried to maybe think we didn’t.”
With such songs as “The Truth” and “Ghost of You” — a rocking retrospective penned by guitarist/keyboardist Billy Martin — the new album delves into darker waters lyrically than previous efforts, though first single “Predictable” showcases the frenetic energy and rousing choruses that have made Good Charlotte a crossover success.
“There’s a lot more variation on [“The Chronicles of Life and Death”]. The band has widened the texture of their music with all kinds of instruments and strings, and lyrically, it has some poignant, intense moments. It’s a very global-feeling album with genuine global hits,” says executive VP of worldwide A&R for Sony Music U.S. and International David Massey, who signed the group to his Epic imprint Daylight for its self-titled 2000 debut.
“They’ve retained their roots,” Massey says, “and people who love them from the first album will absolutely love this record, but it widens them significantly and definitely puts them on another level.”
The new album is available in two versions: a “life” version and a “death” version, each featuring a different bonus track and cover illustration by Martin.
The Waldorf, Md., quintet-which includes Madden’s twin brother, guitarist/vocalist Benji; bassist Paul Thomas; and drummer Chris Wilson-will head out on a co-headlining tour with fellow pop/punk band Sum 41. The jaunt kicks off Oct. 21 at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. The outing includes acts Hazen Street and Lola Ray, both of which are signed to the Madden brothers’ DC Flag Records.
While on tour, Madden says he will work on projects with the writing team the Dead Executives. The BMI group, which includes the Madden brothers and Goldfinger singer/guitarist John Feldmann, expect to start writing songs for other artists soon.
But for now, Good Charlotte comes first.
“As a band, we’re so much happier right now than we’ve ever been,” Madden says. “We keep growing and getting even happier, and we’re so excited to be playing music together right now, because we really did get to try new things. It’s a good time to be in Good Charlotte.”
Excerpted from the Oct. 9, 2004, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
For information about ordering a copy of the issue, click here.