Good Charlotte

The Chronicles of Life and Death (Epic)

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Few pop-punk bands outgrow the genre's Peter Pan complex without losing commercial viability. That's probably because twentysomething angst doesn't translate well to the skatepark. Nevertheless, an ambition to transcend three-chord pogos drives the third album from Hot Topic darlings Good Charlotte.

Chronicles largely avoids pop-punk jauntiness, though there's no shortage of emo chug-a-lug ("Mountain," "S.O.S."), '80s teen-movie trifles ("Ghost of You"), string-slashed rock ("Predictable"), and earnest, Brit-rocking epics ("We Believe"). Even Morrissey could sip a Mai Tai to "The World Is Black," a breezy calypso boogie that bites the Smiths' songbook ("The world is black/And hearts are cold/There's no hope/That's what we're told"). There are some inadvertently hilarious moments, like the 'N Sync-meets-Duran-Duran boy-band stomp "I Just Wanna Live" and the fire-and-brimstone church-hymn orchestration that opens the disc. But Chronicles' oddly generic feel is the result of its diversity; it's as if Good Charlotte is struggling to find its voice, just as the band's teenaged admirers do. These are necessary growing pains, because it's the end of mall emo as we know it. And that is a very Good thing.

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