A lot had changed musically in those six years…gone were the days of their emo-inspired alternative pop-punk, that ship had sailed and the genre itself had been scaled down to little more than a meme to some people, so where did the Maryland rockers fit in? They still retained their trademark alternative core sound, but they had further embraced more of that pop-based production value; less angst, more musical maturity but frankly, despite the long gap, the albums reception was underwhelming if anything…2018 sees them look to put that behind them however with the cobwebs now dusted off, and they found themselves itching to get back into the studio. The result? “Generation Rx”…let’s check it out.
The album opens up with the title track and at this point I must point out that the Rx is a nod to the opioid crisis in the US; it’s a medical term associated with prescription drugs and suggestively a great start; are drugs a prerequisite to find enjoyment in this album? Luckily no, but it does give in an indication of the socio-political elements fueling the direction of the record. Essentially a glorified intro track, it’s very minimal with gradual piano, vocal harmonies and overall hushed tone, lyrically referring to the void that is prescription medication; a black hole of addiction that’s there in front of you, yet so difficult to see and ultimately avoid. First track proper then “Self Help” transitions in smoothly, continuing this narrative and begins what is arguably now just an 8-track mini-album. With its scorching vocal opening it takes things up several notches with it’s intense, up-tempo kick start, and it’s got a pretty infectious hook too…couple that with an enjoyable, no-nonsense riff approach, this is some decent alt. rock and much better.
Given the fact that they’ve opted for an almost less-is-more approach to this record, the highlight’s here give the album a genuine sense of solid consistency it has to be said…”Shadowboxer” has a simple but effective groove carrying another strong, melodic chorus leading up to an almost anthemic climax, before “Actual Pain” delivers an actual potential hit. Utilising more synth-pop elements in places, gang vocals and harmonies it’s no wonder this was the lead single, great stuff this. Elsewhere tracks such as “Better Demons”, with its opening monologue and underlying nihilism reflects the darkness sewn throughout the album but again it’s delivered with some great hooks, while we’re treated to a surprise collaboration with ARCHITECTS own Sam Carter on the track “Leeches” which adds additional weight and depth.
Despite all these positives there’s always room for less impressive offerings even on shorter track lists and here, they come in the form of “Cold Song”, which is just a slower guitar ballad which would have been better suited to like, NICKELBACK or even COLDPLAY…hell the chorus could even pass for a WESTLIFE track…Jesus…before closing track “California (The Way I Say I Love You)” very nearly goes down a similar path, and I’m surprised to know that this wasn’t written by Anthony Kiedis! I jest…real talk though, drop those and maybe the intro and this could go from a decent album to a strong EP! Ultimately Good Charlotte are still tweaking things musically and still gone are the days of their bombastic eye-liner clad punk vigour, but here they still manage to entertain for the most part. I’d avoid getting the prescription though, paracetamol are only 20p a pack in Wilko you tight bastard…