Fun but frustratingly immature
Jessie Atkinson
17:05 24th February 2022

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As you might deduce from the title of Avril Lavigne’s forthcoming album Love Sux, much of this latter day comeback (in the midst of a pop-punk explosion) is rooted in 2002-isms. Machine Gun Kelly collab ‘Bois Lie’ even seems to nod to ‘Sk8er Boi’, one of a handful of mega-mega-hits that launched Avril into pop-punk fame back at the beginning of the 21st century.

Now thirty-seven years old, Avril is still playing with schoolbook colloquialisms and the dramas of one who is unlucky in love. The results are undeniably fun, especially for those of us who were young at the time of 2002's Let Go—and the new youth, who are dabbling in chequered wrist warmers and smudged liner. Sadly, Love Sux sounds too much like a 2002 carbon copy to truly impress in 2022.

‘Cannonball’ starts things off with a neat demonstration of this dichotomy between enjoyment and frustration: the feedback of an electric guitar being plugged in and the breakneck, almost happy hardcore speed of Travis Barker’s drumming are easy hooks into the hyper angst of pop-punk…but it’s hard not to wince when Avril screams out “motherfuckers let’s go” as if living in a perpetual version of her famous “punk rock” interview. The opening lines are repeated in album closer ‘Break Of A Heartache’, which is similarly forgettable.

It’s this unfortunate undercurrent of the immature that pulls Love Sux away from pure unadulterated fun. ‘Bois Lie’ is an absolute earworm, but its lyrics (sample: “boys lie, but I can too. Revenge is my sweet tooth”) stop way short of innovating the genre—or even casting a knowing wink at its audience.

“You can’t buy me with something shiny, because I am not like everyone,” Avril sings on lowlight ‘Déjà vu’ which shares a name with Olivia Rodrigo’s 2021 mega-hit, but none of the charm. “I’ll buy a Range Rover just to run you over,” is another example of the calibre of lyrics we’re talking about here.

Much of these criticisms come from a place of frustration for what could have been. The music here is fun and punchy: pop-punk grenades and scream-your-lungs-out ballads benefitting from Travis’ ever-excellent drumming and Avril’s vocals (disappointingly over-produced in many places here). ’Kiss Me Like The World Is Ending’ could have absolutely been a single with its guitar riff reminiscent of ‘All The Small Things’ while ‘Bois Lie’, ‘Bite Me’ and ‘Love It When You Hate Me’ are—despite their lyrics—a truly solid run. 'Dare To Love Me', meanwhile, is a piano-led beauty that should have closed the album.

Love Sux just can't keep the momentum thoughout. The Mark Hoppus-featuring ‘All I Wanted’ moves from a promising verse into a forgettable chorus, initially playing with the quicktime singing of Blink-182 before disintegrating into an insipid chorus. 

It’s particularly disappointing that more complex lyrics weren’t explored in this project. Avril, Travis, Mark Hoppus & co.—some of the most famous players within pop-punk—had a real opportunity to live up to the genre’s new standards. Instead, they’ve fallen short of the bar set by newbies Olivia Rodrigo and WILLOW with last year’s stand-out projects Sour and lately I feel EVERYTHING.

Love Sux arrives 25 February via DTA Records.

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