Off-Key with Eric D.

Eric D’Orazio

Good Charlotte, “The Young and the Hopeless,” Epic

For a band that was formed in 1998, Good Charlotte has gone through a great deal of drama during its time on the punk rock scene. Starting out as a little-known band from the D.C. area, few people knew, let alone cared, about its upbeat message and energetic shows.

However, all that changed when the staff of WHFS, D.C.’s premiere alternative rock station, befriended the band and asked it to play a number of benefit shows in the area. By doing so, it gained greater exposure and the band’s fan base expanded. The group received a record deal with Epic and soon released its self-titled debut album, which included the hit “Little Things.”

Since then, Good Charlotte has played Warped Tour several times, hosted its own rock show on MTV and watched its debut album go platinum. Now it makes the triumphant return to the charts with their highly anticipated new album, “The Young and the Hopeless.”

Right from the start the new album is very different from what Good Charlotte is known for. Instead of a consistent, angst-ridden punk rock opening, “The Young and the Hopeless” starts off with “A New Beginning,” a Radiohead-esque track containing a choir. Though this lasts less than two minutes, it implies that the listener is in for a truly magnanimous punk rock adventure. This adventurous theme continues into the second track, “The Anthem.” Not to be confused with the debut’s “East Coast Anthem,” this new track deals with a need to be oneself, even if it means going against the norm. In other words, it’s like the entire previous album all rolled into one 3-minute punk song. And on top of that, it’s a superb mosh pit song.

Like many punk rock albums nowadays, “The Young and the Hopeless” must rely upon a catchy, radio-friendly single to garner the public’s attention and gain a good chart status. This mainstream single arrives in the form of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Driven by a fast and furious melody reminiscent of ’40s swing, the song remains pop enough for Top 40 but credible enough to be punk as well. Its lyrics deal with the annoying rants that celebrities go into about how hard it is to be, well, rich and famous. But it also implies the obvious fact that they can get away with anything should they have “the cash to pay for Cochran.” With consistent radio airplay for the past few months and a video that has been dominating MTV’s TRL for some time, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” is set to follow in the successful footsteps of its predecessor.

Another constant among the average punk rock album is the all-too-sad, all-too-overplayed “girls hate guys” song. And, surprise surprise, the new Good Charlotte album has one as well. Titled “Boys & Girls,” it looks upon the fact that “girls don’t like boys/girls like cars and money.” Whether true or not, no one may ever know. Perhaps that’s why the subject matter has been covered so many times. The song’s sound is evocative of early 80s new wave, like Blondie meets the Talking Heads. But then again, it also stays true to Good Charlotte’s brand of punk in a way: light, low calorie and easy to digest.

Whereas Good Charlotte’s debut album was somewhat jovial with its depictions of life and love in and around its hometown of Waldorf, Md., “The Young and the Hopeless” is much more progressive. It stands as a representation of where the band has been over the past couple of years and the lessons the members have learned from those experiences. If anything is for certain, it is that the new album will break wide open and allow a following comparable to those of A New Found Glory, or perhaps even that of Blink-182. Truly, “The Young and the Hopeless” is Good Charlotte’s shining moment: the kick-start to full acceptance and immense popularity. Though the band may be young, it surely isn’t hopeless.