Apparently the reason why we never heard an announcement about Good Charlotte breaking up is because it never happened. They’ve simply taken a break for a while, which leaves respective vocalist and guitarist Joel and Benji Madden to release their latest artistic endeavours under the moniker of The Madden Brothers. Anyone expecting the same kind of effervescent pop-punk that the twins delivered in Good Charlotte will be in for a surprise – Greetings From California is thirteen tracks (and two completely pointless static ‘intros’) of ’50s and ’60s-style pop and imbued with California sunshine, though right now was simultaneously the best and worst time to unleash it onto the world; best because it’s definitely enough to tide over fans of the brothers until the next Good Charlotte album; worst because, after only a few listens, it’s enough to remind anyone how preferable a new Good Charlotte album would be.
The most impressive thing about Greetings From California is, on the spectrum of quality ranging from wonderful to simply awful, there’s at least one song that hits every possible point. Those at the top end show the brothers knack for penning a seriously great pop tune, and exactly why they’ve been recruited to write with the likes of One Direction and 5 Seconds Of Summer. We Are Done is a prime example of this; starting off with a cute little guitar riff and soft vocals, it soon blossoms into one of the biggest, most summery pop songs to come out of this year, gospel choir and all, elevating to a zenith that the rest of the album just can’t seem to match up to. There are still a few good songs tucked away within the tracklist though – the sparse desert-folk of Brother is distinctly reminiscent of The Eagles, while Jealousy (All Your Friends In Silverlake) would be a guaranteed number one if recorded by anyone currently skulking round the top end of the charts, and Dear Jane‘s laid back vibes just breeze pleasantly by. It’s most definitely a huge departure from the brother’s day job, but when it’s done as well as these tracks show it can be, it’s not hard to imagine this being a full time career move.
The rest of the album says otherwise though. For a large portion, Greetings From California is incredibly bad at straddling the line between sentimental and overly twee, and there are far too many moments where it falls into the latter category. The likes of U R and Love Pretenders feel devoid of any sort of edge whatsoever, while the dragging, overly long California Rain is a puzzling inclusion that scraps any sort of pop sensibilities that have been present throughout the rest of the album, even while sounding too much like The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun (though the lyrical content may explain the reasoning behind that).
Then there are the other songs, that make very little impact, and are just kind of there. The likes of Brixton and Bad are just pretty forgettable, and have filler written all over them. Given its faults though, Greetings From California is still worth a listen, if only to see the Maddens’ evolution into a more mature, equable entity than what many are used to. Though while there are glimmers of gold peppered throughout, it’s still going to take some convincing before it’s decided whether this new project would be a worthy full-time investment.
For fans of: The Beach Boys, Best Coast, Andrew McMahon
Words by Luke Nuttall