Music I Grew Up With #4 — Change is inevitable & that’s what makes Good Charlotte the greatest

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We all have that one band we have been listening to for years. That one band we know everything about. That one band we can listen to for hours without getting sick of their music. That one band with songs we know all the lyrics to. That one band we can relate to. That one band who made us who we are today.

To me, that one band is a little band from Maryland called Good Charlotte. Ever heard of them ? This is an actual question. I know they are in their 30s, some of them are married and have kids and, yeah, they also were on hiatus for the past five years. Yet, it does not mean that everyone should forget about them, right ?

What a surprise when I went to buy their new record ‘Youth Authority’ on its release day at the store and the Department Manager cleary asked me if the band was still around (dude, you’re the one who orders the records you want to sell in your store so you should know it). Another surprise was when I went to the Birmingham date of the latest All Time Low’s UK tour in February : Good Charlotte was opening and at some point, they asked who was seeing them for the first time and there were so many raised hands. Then again, All Time Low’s audience is younger than Good Charlotte’s. I mean, I’ve been listening to Good Charlotte since I was 12. And now, I am 24. Yes, I’m almost as old as the members of All Time Low. Feeling old, yet ?

People not knowing about them is not that big of a deal. The way people now discover artists is different from what it was ten years ago. I found out about Good Charlotte on television. Today, you find out about bands mostly on internet. I can’t blame anyone on this.

However, what really annoys me is to come across recent album reviews that point out their change in music as a negative thing. If you listen their self-titled, ‘The Young and The Hopeless’, ‘The Chronicles of Life and Death’, ‘Good Morning Revival’, ‘Cardiology’ and ‘Youth Authority’, you will notice that you don’t listen to the same album twice. Why ? Simply because each and every one of these albums has been made by human beings that have been through different phases in life and consequently does not sound the same. Almost a month ago, I found myself at the Warfield in San Francisco for the Youth Authority tour. First, let me tell that it was probably the greatest show I’ve been to this year. Yet again, I am totally biased. However, one thing I keep from this show is Benji Madden (guitar) on stage telling that Good Charlotte have always tried to find their sound and that’s why none of their albums sounds the same.

I can totally imagine why people want an album that goes back to the ‘The Young & The Hopeless’ days. It was subversive, it was a huge middle finger to the system, it was about being bold and proud about who you are and not fitting into a box, it was about trying to survive this society. Now, fast forward to 2016.  ‘Youth Authority’ opens on a song called Life Changes, that begins with a little interference that sounds like the beginning of Little Things. Now, look up the lyrics. Don’t you dare telling me this is not a middle finger to the people who may have doubted about them along the way. Good Charlotte has been a band for the past twenty years and them still being a band today, releasing new music and going on tour is amazing. Moreover, Good Charlotte being independent and releasing their music through MDDN is bold.

We all know how chaotic the music industry has been since Internet changed the game and how harder it has become for bands to adapt to this new ecosystem. Therefore, change has to happen.

 Good Charlotte started as this band of angry kids with funny looks and funny hair who would perform Festival Song while toilet paper is thrown in the crowd. That band who would hang out with so many awesome bands such as MxPx or Rancid. Then, those angry kids became the voice of generation and pulled out The Anthem, which is probably their most famous tracks (drinking game : take a shot every time you hear that song in a 2000’s teen movie). When ‘The Young & The Hopeless’ came out, they were still angry, even angrier, but they were fighting and they were telling people who related to do the same. On a personal note, ‘The Young & The Hopeless’ is the album that helped me get through so much shit when I was younger. I’ll let you guess thanks to which song. Afterwards, they went through that dark phase that was dealing with death, grief, sadness (no, this is not their Emo album, please). Already at that time, they opposed ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ and ‘I Just Wanna Live’ because people were already pointing out their change of lifestyles. By « their », I mean especially the Madden brothers’ lifestyle, who turn out to be at the core of Good Charlotte, if I may. Right after that, the band experimented with Electro music. It was very different but it was not bad. That was interesting to see them incorporate that kind of music they  obviously listen to beside the scene’s music, whatever it means. Side note : you should look up Steve Aoki’s work and Fast Future Generation so you can have a heads-up on that era. Finally, the angry kids turned into grown-ups. They have settled down and obviously, it reflects in their music.

Their hiatus was not as painful as it could have been because even though the band was not active as a whole, they were still there. Some of them found their voice and started managing people, some of them went back to college, some of them kept doing their thing, some of them revealed the artist in them (and by artist, I mean, illustrator. We all know Billy Martin is a master in guitar). But they could always go back to music. And that’s what they did.

Today, being bold does not mean fitting into people’s expectations. It’s being true to yourself and providing the music you love. When a band announces their new album is their best album so far, it is not necessarily obvious to the ear of their fans. However, when you step back, the new album is the best album because there has been a number of years of work behind it, whether it’s touring, composing, writing, or producing. Also, a number of mistakes, doubts and fears that we, as music fans, do not get to see. The new sound is different. It’s changed. So what ?

As I am trying to find an end to this story, I’m listening to Moving On (closing track off ‘Youth Authority’). And if I had to compare this song to Movin’ On (from The Young and The Hopeless), I would only say that we don’t know what the future holds for Good Charlotte. I really want to believe that it is promising because 2016 has this weird « let bring back all the punk rock bands » vibe.

I find comfort in Youth Authority and so should you. It reminds me that one band I’ve been listening for the past 12 years, that one band I know everything about (I’ve stopped being ashamed of it), that one band I can listen to for hours without getting sick of it, that one band with songs I know all the lyrics to, that one band I used to relate to, that one band who made me who I am today. It reminds me that no matter how much their current sound has changed compared to their « older » sound, I can always go back to their music and it will be like going through a photo album of my own life. As our favorite bands change, as they grow up, we change and we grow up with them. Who we are today is definitely the best version of ourselves and in the end, what really connects us, artists and fans, well, it’s the music.

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Words : Karen V. 

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Good Charlotte – ‘Youth Authority’, out now.

Music I Grew Up With…series
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