Whether you’re walking down the streets of Hollywood Boulevard, or talking to the person next to you at a Weezer show, one band’s name will always come up, and that’s Good Charlotte. Whilst in recent years they’re a band who have put out some slightly more questionable releases, they are still however a band that can be seen as one of the crowning jewels of the pop punk genre, and mainstream rock world itself.
Having formed in 1995, when most the musicians on stage in modern pop punk were still a twitch in their old man’s trousers, the two Madden twins, and bassist Paul Thomas formed the punk, yet to go pop band at the La Plata High School in Maryland. Spendings the years 1998 and 1999 playing clubs in and around the area, it wasn’t until their second debut, The Young & The Hopeless that the band saw the mainstream success that makes them a household name today.
“IT WAS JUST AS MUCH AN ANGRY REBELLIOUS PUNK RECORD AS IT WAS A FUN POP, ‘LETS HAVE A GOOD TIME’ RECORD…”
Twelve months earlier in 2001, fellow scene members, JIMMY EAT WORLD had been projected into the stratosphere and taken pop punk out of the clubs and onto the radio airwaves with their critically acclaimed Bleed American, and thus a domino effect had started. Pop punk by definition means popular punk, and with popular being the key word, it soon became cemented that this more upbeat, quickly paced punk music, with huge pop choruses, was to not only sell over 4.9 million copies in the record stores, but also influence early 2000s popular culture itself. It could be argued that records from bands such as these back in the noughties is the reason we see punk bands entering the more mainstream festival line ups, music charts, magazines and chain entertainment stores today.
Opening track, A New Beginning, opens with chimes that instantly creates a nostalgic feel and doesn’t shy away from the kind of opener you’d find on a Beach Boys record, but fast forward to 00:36 and you’re slammed with riffs being played just as quickly as Vinnie Stigma (from Agnostic Front in case you’re wondering), a reminder that although releasing an accessible mainstream record was on the cards, the band weren’t looking to shy away from their punk roots. The record in essence can also be that introductory record to punk, with particular tracks such as Riot Girl seeing vocalist Joel Madden idolise the ‘punk girl’ for her niche music taste with the point blank lyrics, “She likes Minor Threat, she likes Social Distortion.” Personally for me as a 12 year old kid I suddenly had more of an interest in my dad’s US imported 7” vinyl collection, and thus fell down the rabbit hole of religiously buying anything labelled ‘punk’ or ‘hardcore’ every weekend in All Ages Records. It was also a very empowering record for women, I felt like suddenly it wasn’t always the ‘guys’ who were ‘cool’ for skateboarding, collecting records, and listening to punk.
“ITS a snapshot of subcultures beginning to thrive within a slowly dying conformative society.”
But’s let all admit why we really loved this band and this record at the height of our puberty years. It’s a record of rebellion, but instead we replace the anger with just straight up fun pop punk songs that make you want to both dance, stage dive off your school desk (which resulted in a 2 week suspension) and slam your bedroom in your parent’s face all at the same time. You could suddenly be flipping off authority simply by singing along to songs on the radio, and that was the pure brilliance of it. It was a CD you could slip into your parent’s car stereo and innocently disguise it as some catchy songs. The lyrical content of arguably the band’s biggest hit, The Anthem particularly made me feel some deep level of both hope and angst for someone under a lot of pressure in a middle class family in a good neighbourhood, deciding that I would live my life by the anthemic chorus of, “I don’t ever want to be you.” We were the generation living in the shadow of being able to buy a house by 25, the nuclear family (also ironically portrayed in the artwork), and working a lousy office job so we could ‘live for the weekend’, and that’s why this record spoke to us, and in many ways influenced the work ethics and the rebellious generation that us millenials have become today.
“SUDDENLY YOU COULD be flipping off authority simply by singing along to THE songs on the radio”
Unlike the slightly more conceptual videos that the band were to produce later on in their careers, visually Good Charlotte were a band that brought together both the ‘normies’ and the ‘freaks’. In particular the video for, Lifestyles Of The Rich & Famous is a perfect portrayal of society’s views on tattoos and ‘punk kids’ at the time, a snapshot of subcultures beginning to thrive within a slowly dying conformative society. Draining the TV remote’s batteries by consistently flicking through music channels, the video for The Anthem is one you’d always stop to watch. Suddenly you wanted to step inside the TV and into the skate punk bohemian neighbourhood party. Cars pumping up their suspensions, pit bulls, and showing off your latest ink were all dawned with pride, which in the real world would make you a reject in your white suburban neighbourhood. It’s also arguable that Good Charlotte were one of the first bands to also step up the merch game. Named after their mother’s maiden name (listen to The Story Of My Old Man and you’ll see why), the heavy black hoodies daunting the script letters of M.A.D.E were not only suddenly sought after by everyone in the scene, but almost became a form of branded communication, if you saw someone wearing something so niche by such an accessible band, you knew they shared the same music taste as you without suffering from any penalisation from the normie bullies at your school.
“THE RECORD WILL ALWAYS HAVE HISTORICAL MERIT IN BECOMING A TIME CAPSULE OF NOUGHTIES ALTERNATIVE YOUTH CULTURE.”
T.Y.A.T.H was the soundtrack for our youth for a lot of reasons. It was an angsty love song to the person that rejected us (My Bloody Valentine), it was an anarchist record for standing against both society and everyone who alienated ‘the punk kids’ (The Anthem), and it was a record that struck the match that made this generation, the one everyone over 40 seems to always complain about, have hope that we could still change the world (Hold On). The record will always hold historical merit for it’s ability to act as a time capsule of noughties alternative youth culture. An incredible 15 years after its release, it’s a record that still heavily dominates the band’s live setlist, and boasts of bangers that fill both the mainstream and rock clubs. And there’s no doubt, that another 15 years from now, The Young And The Hopeless will remain an absolute game changer in both making rock accessible in a mainstream pop world, and one that will continue to fly the black flag for pop punk itself.
WORDS: GEORGIA RAWSON
YOU CAN CATCH GOOD CHARLOTTE HEADLINING SLAM DUNK FESTIVAL. GRAB YOUR TICKETS HERE.