Release Year: 2001
When Sum 41 first hit the scene back in 2001, many wrote off the band as clones of pop-punk counterparts Blink-182 and Green Day. Even I admit, I thought they sounded a lot like the two. Though they wouldn’t settle into their own sound until later in their career, their debut is still lots of fun. It’s the best record around, but you can’t deny the songs are catchy, upbeat, feel good, and a bit on the silly side. They borrowed a lot from their pop-punk influences, but for a band still trying to find their own sound you can’t really fault them.
From the way things kick off you would think Sum 41 were a metal band. “Introduction to Destruction” sounds like something you would find on an Ozzy Osbourne LP. It has a creepy vibe with eerie howling and tolling church bells like a cheesy horror movie. Then a narrator comes on with a bad impression of Vincent Price and introduces the band in corny fashion. It doesn’t add much to the album, but shows the humorous side of the band. Things pick up with “Nothing on my Back” with energetic and upbeat music that gets you moving. There’s nothing else to it; it’s just fun. “Never Wake Up” changes things up by having more of a punk rock vibe focusing less on the pop-punk. Everything comes rushing at you like a tidal wave and the vocals are so sloshed together you can barely make out what he’s saying. It’s a short, yet cool song to lose your mind to.
The band gained notoriety for their single “Fat Lip.” Though it’s over ten years old (really?!) it still sounds as energetic, fun, and carefree as it did when it was first released. The catchy track is about having a good time and being a rebel and when you hear it, it makes you want to break something. It also has some funny moments like “Because you don’t/know us at all/we laugh we old people fall.” What really works for the track are the shared vocals, which is something they don’t return to on this album. They sound really good and make the song stand out, so it’s interesting how they only did it once. “In Too Deep” was another hit for them that’s just as fun and hook filled. The music here seems to take more of a pop influence since the riff sounds lighter and perkier here. But they throw in a bit of metal during the short, but cool guitar solo.
For some reason this album seems to capture the mood and feeling of summer. Maybe it’s because a lot of their songs are fun and carefree, but when I listened to it I pictured kids skateboarding in the park during a sunny day. They even have a song titled “Summer,” but it’s kind of a downer; it seems to be about finding out your friend has “changed” over the break and realizing you two are growing apart. Also, a lot of the songs deal with typical adolescent concerns: bad relationships, being lazy, and not giving a shit. The lazy anthem has to be “Motivation,” which talks about lacking motivation to do anything. A happy ending to a disastrous relationship is explored on “Crazy Amanda Bunkface.” Derick Wembly sounds bratty and snotty as he sings “I don’t wanna hear you bitch no more. /I was better off a year before/No matter how I try I can’t ignore /Every time I think my brain gets sore /When I’m with you.” It’s one of those get-the-fuck-out-of-my-life songs you can’t help but love.
The closing track “Pain for Pleasure” lets the band have some fun as they present themselves as a metal band from the 80s. Everything from the sneering riff to the falsetto vocals reminds you of bands from that era. Even though the song is really silly, it does have some impressive guitar riffs and shows another side of the band. It actually reminds you of something Dio or Iron Maiden would do.
Overall, the album gets 7/10. It’s not a strong debut, but it is a lot of fun. You can’t ignore how much they sound like other notable pop-punk bands, but you can’t really fault them. This is the point when they were finding their sound and they obviously don’t have it done yet. But the album is still filled with blazing riffs, catchy hooks, and snotty vocals to keep you well entertained.