“Cardiology is a mystery,” Good Charlotte front man Joel Madden sings awkwardly on the title track of the band’s new album, Cardiology. He couldn’t be more right. While this batch of songs is a move back towards the type of music that warmed our hearts five albums ago, Good Charlotte just doesn’t have the same punch they once did. The second half of the album is where you can find some remotely enjoyable tracks if you haven’t already thrown the disc out of your car window or deleted it from your iPod. The band makes attempts to grow, but it probably only works well enough to satisfy hardcore fans. Casual fans will not take to this record as much as the band may have hoped. The industry, the fans, the scene, and the band have changed since their debut, and there is no turning back the clock.
The band is not trying to reinvent the wheel or themselves here. They keep it very simple and basic. “Like It’s Her Birthday” is a little off-color from what the album is trying to accomplish. It does not shy away from the dance-y, mall-pop type of music that they were trying to avoid, but it is a catchy single that lets the public know that Good Charlotte is back. It will be a guilty pleasure that some will try to ignore, but most will succumb to.
There are a handful of songs on Cardiology that simply fall flat. “Sex On The Radio” should have been passed over and not included. It’s plausible that there is a B-side somewhere in the GC collection that could have been better album filler than this track. It has a really cheesy chorus, and it just seems that the band did not put a whole lot of effort into this song. When a song does fail on this album, it seems to be in the chorus and in the lyrics. “Last Night”, “Counting The Days”, and “Silver Screen Romance” fall into this category. Joel Madden sings about girls, parties, and nostalgia for American cinema, and while these songs do vary in musical style, they ultimately miss the mark and are rather forgettable. These tracks seem forced, as if the band was not trying to push any sort of envelope and wanted to make sure that the formula they had used in the past, rather successfully, was not broken.
But there are bright spots if you stick it out long enough. ”Alive”, arguably the best song on the album, is heavy and more rock-oriented than other tracks. It has strong images and one of the better choruses on the record. “1979”, not a Smashing Pumpkins cover, could be a hit single and features the acoustic guitar with pop chords and catchy lyrics and harmonizing that GC has been cooking up for years. (It’s like if “Girls & Boys” and Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight” had a baby.) The piano-driven “Harlow’s Song” is a sweet song to Madden’s daughter. The band’s maturity shines through on this track. It doesn’t try to do too much and has an original style that breaks away from a typical GC song. Throughout the album, the growth of this band does become apparent. However, this can be masked by the fact that they’re attempting to recapture an earlier sound.
It’s a double-edged sword. They will bring in some new fans but probably not many. Die-hard fans will appreciate the growth they’ve seen from their breakout debut to the dismal Good Morning Revival. Is it too late for this band to recapture their early stardom? Probably, but they are still here, and as long as you keep listening, they will stay here. We created this monster. It’s up to us to accept it or destroy it.