Thursday, November 7, 2013

Album Review: Why Should Avril Lavigne's New, Self-Titled Album Come With a GPS?

In the video for her latest album's second single, "Rock N Roll," Avril Lavigne is pictured going for an exciting but treacherous drive in a 1970's-era sports car.  With this self-titled opus, Lavigne takes her music on a similar cruise through some new territory, leaving fans to decide whether the detours are welcome scenic routes or a waste of their sonic travel time.

The album starts out with the compass pointing in the right direction.  "Rock N Roll" and "Here's To Never Growing Up" are extremely fresh manifestations of Lavigne's trademark bratty, youthful, and pop-tinged rock. 

However, the album takes a tire-squealing turn onto a poppier street with "17."  I'm not sure if it's the use of an age as a song title or the music itself, but this tune is reminiscent of Taylor Swift's latest hits with its straightforward girl-pop approach.  And the sound of the next track, "Bitchin' Summer," is nowhere near as edgy as its title, - at least until it hits its rap interlude that begins with "Near the beach the party don't stop/if we don't get harassed by the motherf****n' cops."

"Let Me Go" is a duet with Lavigne's new hubby, Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, and it sounds undeniably and predictably like a Nickelback song.  Kroeger's contributions go beyond just this song; he co-produced and co-wrote a large number of the album's tracks.
Recapturing any attention that may have waned during the dark, moody "Give What You Like," Lavigne delivers the album's most pleasant surprise - "Bad Girl."  This reviewer's first impression was that the tune, with its near-metal rhythms, vocals, and production, leans very little towards Lavigne's signature sound and more towards that of...Marilyn Manson?

How weird, right?

Well, upon further investigation, a reason for that was discovered - the Antichrist Superstar himself contributed backing vocals.  It makes you wish Lavigne married Manson instead of Kroeger.

Alas, one shouldn't get too comfortable on the metal highway, for Lavigne shifts gears once again with "Hello Kitty," tossing nearly every trace of rock stylings out the window for an electronic, Ke$ha-meets-Nicki-Minaj cacophony.  A more traditional Lavigne song, "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," arrives just in time for those who cringe at the thought of Avril crossing over to the dark side of dance-club pop.

"Sippin' on Sunshine" may not rock either, but it is infectiously catchy and will undoubtedly claim a prominent place on many a beach playlist in the Summer of 2014.  If one hasn't had enough of Lavigne bouncing between genres the way that drivers change lanes on Interstate 405, Mrs. Kroeger switches it up again with the indie rock "Hello Heartache" that wedges itself between Of Monsters & Men's back bumper and Imagine Dragons' headlights.  And just for good measure, the thick-eye-shadowed one closes the album with the mellow, adult album alternative tunes "Falling Fast" and "Hush Hush" as if she just ran out of rock-n-roll gas.

There is no doubt that Avril Lavigne, the album, has its high points as it zooms through many a musical neighborhood.  But such joyrides aren't for every fan:  some may find them exhilarating, while others may just be carsick at the end of the trip.