Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Single's Collection: The Madden Brothers "We Are Done" Review

I know what most of you are probably thinking: "Why are you reviewing a single that came out in May? I thought this series of articles was for reviewing songs that came out recently?"

Well...this managed to slip past my radar when it came out and I only heard it yesterday. Sorry, I'm just one guy doing this at the end of the day and sometimes stuff slips past me that I normally would be all over like a bad rash! It happens: some artists just get forgotten to check back on for months at time and, in that time, some of them have stuff happen to them which has completely passes me by (heck, I didn't realise La Roux were (or is it "was" now, considering there's only one member of the band left now? Answers on a metaphorical postcard!) releasing a new album until THE DAY IT WAS RELEASED IN MY HOME COUNTRY! And it still nearly passed me by: I only found that out because I felt like listening to "Bulletproof" and found myself going "I wonder what else this artist has done?"...). Also...well, I have to be honest, when I heard the mixtape the Maddens released in 2011, my thoughts weren't "Awesome!", but "Meh, it's not bad, but this isn't my kind of thing..." (outside of "A Million Tears", which was one of my favourite songs of 2011...and no, I'm not kidding there!), so I wasn't exactly excited about this. Yet I couldn't help being intrigued when I noticed that the wikipedia page for the album had it listed under the genres "pop rock" (which was not anything that surprising for me: Good Charlotte are a pop punk band and Benji and Joel have been part of the band for nearly twenty years now, so a step up from punk to rock was a rather understandable step up due to the basic logic that Benji has now been playing guitar for more than long enough to be capable of stepping up to that level) and "folk rock" (which was VERY surprising for me: I'd never have thought the Maddens were into folk from listening to Good Charlotte's music, with about the closest link to the genre I can think of being "1979" from Cardiology, and with the mixtape from 2011 being closer to hip hop music...), so I gave the song a listen after noticing a friend had posted a link to it on his Facebook wall (cheers, Steven! If you're reading this, drop me a message some time, it'll be great to chat, I don't think we've had a chance to chat since Halloween!).

And...I was struck by two BIG questions, but I'll get to those in a minute.

First up, if you want to hear the song first, then here you go!

The first thing that struck me is that this does NOT sound like folk rock in the slightest. To be fair, that one was probably my fault: I didn't check what genres the song was listed under on its own page, so my expectations were probably completely wrong (I quite enjoy folk rock, so I feel disappointed that it wasn't folk rock). If I had taken the time to check the page, I would have found my hopeful expectations diminished a bit by the mention of alternative rock (a genre of music which I find boring, for the most part), although the mention of pop rock and psychedelic pop would have stopped those expectations from completely disappearing (both of those genres are ones which I've found some pretty enjoyable stuff from, despite not listening to them a lot in my free time).

So, now that you know that my first thoughts on this was tainted by my expectations for it, you're going to expect me to trash this song, right?



Wow, that reference must have stopped being funny a while back...remind me to go update my files on internet memes when this review is over!

Anyway, my opinion on this song grew when I got over my initial "WHERE'S THE FOLK ROCK IN THIS?!" reaction and actually started to look at it for what it was instead of hating it for what it wasn't (which was a more complex Good Charlotte with folk elements to their sound...hmm, that actually would be rather cool, now I think on it!). Sure, it strikes me as one of those songs which will be forgotten in a few months (case of point, how many of you could honestly claim to remember this song when you saw that I was doing a review of it?), but hey, I'll take a song which leaves no long term impact over something so bad that I'll be hating it for the rest of my life!

*Glares at Dracula 3000 DVD sitting in the corner of the room*

When I figure out the formula for Greek fire, I will destroy you! You will burn, motherfucker, you will be destroyed by the unstoppable fires of the most terrifying weapon of the Byzantines!

...Sorry, what was I talking about?

Oh yeah..."We Are Done" has a really catchy chorus, but, in all honesty, that's the only thing that really stands out about it on first listen. I am not kidding when I say that the song was literally saved from being ignored by me due to the chorus being just a strong and catchy chorus. I also notice that Joel sounds uncannily like Gotye (who you might know for the 2011 hit "Somebody That I Used To Know") in the verses of the song. I don't want to throw out the accusation that he sounds like he's trying to rip off Gotye, as I don't think his voice sounds noticeably different compared to usual outside of that, but the resemblance is still a bit of an issue with me. In fact, now I think on it, this whole song sounds uncannily like it actually could have been written by Gotye...granted, a far less weird Gotye than the one we actually have, but still Gotye! Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but, now I notice it, I can't help feeling like Benji and Joel Madden were basically trying to write the 2014 version of "Somebody That You Used To Know" and did so by basically taking the formula of that song and tried to replicate it.

...Surprisingly, I'm OK with that. Hey, if you're going to re-write a song by another artist, I won't complain too much if you pick a good one to do that with and you'll get less complaints from me if it's a song that I liked, is recent enough for me to not feel old having to remember when the song came out AND was rather popular as well! The only problem is that I think the Maddens forgot to actually give the song's verses and the pre-chorus a proper think about, as they feel a bit like all they are doing is linking the chorus to itself again. I will have to mark the song down for the suspicious resemblance to Gotye, but it's only because I don't think I should let unoriginality be given a free pass: I would actually like to hear more music like this getting popular, speaking without being a critic for a second!

In terms of the performances of the instruments, I can't help feeling that the only performance that's really noteworthy for any reason on this song is the drums...and even that's only because it seems to be the only performance to show some proper variety to it. Unfortunately, they seem a bit under-utilised throughout the song, which is a bit of a shame. The rest of the, they're OK, I guess. Nothing special, but what is there is certainly not badly performed.

Moving to the vocals...well, I've already pointed out the suspicious resemblance to Gotye (quite a few times now...), but the performances are otherwise typical for the guys: if you like Joel as a vocalist, he mostly sticks to what he does best and Benji sticks with doing backing vocals as per usual. I'm not sure exactly which of the two it is who does the highest backing notes in the chorus of this song, but, whichever one of them it is, I have to request they not try to go for them again, as I thought they were struggling to hit them!

The production on this song, if my research is correct, is handled by Eric Valentine, who co-produced Good Charlotte's The Young And The Hopeless (which put him in my good books already: that album was the sound of my childhood!), produced Good Charlotte's The Chronicles Of Life And Death (which...I was ambivalent on) and Slash's first two solo albums (which I did not like, surprisingly enough...although that's not his fault, as my issues are with the material, not his production work!). Well, he does a good job. My personal nitpicks about mastering and bass mixing (which isn't an issue on this one, surprisingly...I'm now wondering if some higher ups in record companies have been reading this blog? I hope not: I don't want to be blamed for changing something if everyone else doesn't like the change!) aside, he gets everything mixed to a decent level and everything sounds about right. I do have an issue with the drums, but that's not something I can really blame him for beyond MAYBE sending off the final results. I don't know who did actually mix this song (yeah, if any record companies ARE reading this, could you do us internet critics a favour and give a complete list of everyone who is involved in making a single, details about what their jobs require them to do and the names of the people involved when releasing a single so that we know who is the sensible bet to place the blame on for stuff that we don't like? That way, we're not blaming the producer for every little thing that goes wrong, especially when it's out of their control!), but I think that guy could have done with turning up the drums a tiny bit more in the chorus, as they get suspiciously quiet when everything else starts up.

So, final thoughts?'s a decent enough listen, I guess. It's got a decent enough chorus to make it worth a listen, but the rest of it just feels a bit undercooked, lacking a real hook to bring it together. The strong reminder of Gotye's signature song, while something which I do actually like, is something which I still feel I have to mark the song down for because a lot of people will get annoyed by it. The whole thing just feels kind of mediocre when I look at it critically. I do like it, so, on a personal and non-critical level, I do recommend checking it out, but, looking at it critically, there isn't a lot to it that will appeal to Good Charlotte fans and I suspect that is going to be a big failing of the album when it comes out: Good Charlotte fans are not going to get it because it's too far from what Good Charlotte sound like (which is arguably the reason why they're NOT releasing it under the Good Charlotte name, when you think about it...they're exploring a new style of music, so it's not really appropriate for the Good Charlotte name!), most people who aren't hugely familiar with Good Charlotte are going to not want to pick it up because their first impression of it is likely to be "it's just a rip off of "Somebody That I Used To Know", so why bother with it?" and people who hate Good Charlotte...well, I've no idea why they'd have bothered to check out this song in the first place, but I imagine this wouldn't be their cup of tea at all!

And that would be a shame. Sure, when I look at this critically, it sends up a flag that basically says "This is not going to be a great album", but, when I take my critical thinking hat off, it's not that bad. Nothing to get excited about, sure, but still not that bad! So, in a break from professional reviewer etiquette (not that I consider myself a professional reviewer, but that's not really the point...), I'm going to say that, although I am going to give this a fairly low rating, you should still check this out to see what you think of it for yourself. I mean, it's three and a half minutes of your time (maybe four, depending on the ad you get before the video) and I have provided the video in this article anyway, so why not take advantage of that fact if you can?

Final Rating: 4 Out Of 10

A somewhat underwhelming song with performances that are mostly typical of what you'd expect from the musicians making the song that also suffers from a noticeable bit of unoriginality. From a critical perspective, there's not a lot to this that's really worth getting excited about and it's probably going to be forgotten by most people before the start of 2015.

(Post-writing note: when I was listening to this song while writing this review (which I literally wrote on the same day I heard this song: that's how I try to roll with this series, aim to write and release an article summing up my first impressions of a song due to how quickly I have to try to put this kind of article out if I still want it to be a relevant article by the time I release it!), it wasn't sticking in my head that much, but, today, I was singing the pre-chorus and chorus of it very happily without having put it on again. So aware that this song will likely leave a bit more of an impact on you than just an immediate first impression would have you believe it would!)

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