Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
The Madden Brothers have returned to the world of music with something a little different. The debut album from siblings Joel and Benji as a double act represents a step away from the renowned pop punk style of Good Charlotte. And different here is certainly not a bad thing.
Greetings from California successfully combines retro and contemporary musical styles to create something that sounds fresh and unique, yet familiar and comfortable. It is defined by reserved and relaxed verses surrounding loud, sing-along choruses. Whether you’re a Good Charlotte fan or not, The Madden Brothers have created plenty for you to enjoy here.
After a brief intro, “Dear Jane” begins things with a catchy, laid back beat that segues into an upbeat chorus. There’s a nice acoustic sound to the song and, despite the lyrics telling of a doomed romance, there is a very care free vibe to the whole thing.
The following track, “Brixton”, is one of the highlights of the album. It begins with a chanting choir like intro that veers towards the genre of folk. This eventually gives way to a strong chorus with a great nod along beat.
“Out of My Mind” is more of a straightforward love song lyrically and another definite highlight. The verses are fast paced and infectious, while the chorus is even faster again, encouraging singing and dancing along. There’s an energy to the track that is simultaneously positive and tormenting, which works extremely well. This could well be my personal favourite song on the album.
“We Are Done” was the perfect choice as the record’s lead single. The guitar work and whistling during the verses are great and the chorus is fantastic, sticking in your head long after it’s over. It’s a classic sing-along tune if ever there was one.
This is followed up with an R & B vibe on “U R”, which has quite an exotic sound to it. “Jealousy (All Your Friends in Silverlake)” showcases more of an electronic quality, while “Love Pretenders” returns to something of an exotic feel. It’s another instance of reserved, silently sung verses that give way to upbeat choruses that are done well.
Following a very brief interlude, “California Rain” continues the R & B style, but with a heavier acoustic sound. There’s quite a soft quality to the track. It has a relaxed beat and is very easy on the ears.
“Brother” boasts yet more well crafted acoustic guitar work during its verses. While it’s the longest song on Greetings from California, it’s also perhaps the simplest musically.
Distinguishing itself as one of the “rockier” additions to the collection, “Bad” is perhaps the closest to the sound of Good Charlotte of all the tracks. Yet it also features some electronics and is still in keeping with the simplistic, stripped down sound of the album.
“Good Gracious Abbey” has retro pop like verses with heavier, more contemporary pop/rock choruses. Given the stark contrast of the styles involved here, this song blends differing sounds impressively well and ends up being one of the best entries on Greetings from California as a result.
Penultimate performance, “Suddenly”, is more of a traditional easy listening number, while finale “Empty Spirits” recalls the simplistic, folk-esque sound of earlier tracks. It finishes things off with simple vocals over an acoustic guitar and strings, bringing an end to the album that is both mellow and pleasant.
As a whole, Greetings from California is far enough removed from the sound of Good Charlotte that it will appeal to non-GC fans and the mainstream, but also endowed with enough of the familiar Madden Brothers spirit that it should be just as appealing to their established fans. Joel and Benji have blended a multitude of sub-genres – including folk, rock, R & B, jazz and easy listening – to craft a record that is both engaging and extremely enjoyable. It has such an innocent and universal sound that I think it would be hard for anyone not to find something that appeals to them here, regardless of their preferred musical genre.
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