There was an entire year, back there in the hazy days of our youth, when this was the first song on every mixtape that my brother made for each of his friends. 2001 being a vintage year for absolutely nothing, Good Charlotte, with their stupid tattoos, absurd haircuts and hilariously juvenile lyrics, stepped in to fill the void which was being occupied at the time by Staind, Creed and the Coyote Ugly soundtrack. Perhaps it was the fact that twins Joel and Benji Madden reminded us somewhat of ourselves, punk-rock snot-nosed kids in a world full of idiot jocks. More likely, it was the fact that while every other song coming out that year seemed to either be about absolutely terrible emotional pain (see: Nu-metal) or having sex and trying not to get caught (see: Shaggy), Good Charlotte weren’t pretending to be anything other than a good way to waste three minutes. Before they started dating Hiltons and Ritchies, before Sony was infamously paying radio DJs to play their tunes and before they started being a lame version of an even lamer Panic! At The Disco, Good Charlotte were classic, black t-shirt fun for the MiniDisc generation. This didn’t even chart above 20 on the Billboard charts, and now these punks are running the show. My brother was ahead of his time.
Perhaps Good Charlotte’s greatest contribution to the pop-punk landscape was their ability to crystallise perceived narratives of the disenfranchised teenager with a complete lack of irony. “This is a song…for every kid who ever got picked last in gym class – this is for you!” I mean, seriously. It’s almost like they were turning radio hits into a drive-in Judd Apatow movie, championing the underdog whilst simultaneously writing hooks that would blast through the speakers of every popular kid’s party for years to come. With a bar chord descending guitar riff that has the words ‘American Pie’ written all over it, Good Charlotte announce themselves as the answer to hip-hop, punk, metal and all the various crossover genres associated with those despite being absolutely none of those things. They’re a creative anomaly that would cause any marketing exec to tear his hair out in frustration; rap-rock delivery, Anthrax/Public Enemy-esque riffs, hip-hop high-tuned snares and sugar-coated harmonies. They get the whole half-time groove thing going before busting out the chops for the chorus and seriously, where have all the fast drummers gone? Every day I hear someone celebrating Bad Brains or The Hard-Ons but I haven’t heard any real rock music above 125BPM in ages. Those single-stroke rolls out of the bridge back into the hook again are great hi-octane stuff. It’s probably all The xx’s fault.
We change the station every time Good Charlotte come on these days but we always have time for this one; it’s practically a bro campfire sing-a-long. It’s about absolving oneself of cynicism for enough time to convince everyone else that fitting in really does go hand in hand with sticking out. Better songs of this ilk have been written by the likes of Blink-182 and Green Day, but at this point both those bands had mellowed into high school formal numbers (‘Time Of Your Life’, ‘Adam’s Song’) and getting your kicks from guitars wasn’t an easy thing to do. It’ll take a while before the situation ever gets that dire again, but when it does, we can always rely on The Maddens for cheap tricks.
Good Charlotte – ‘Little Things’