Many acts avoid reading reviews of their albums for fear one sour critic will reduce their noble efforts to rubble. Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden is not one of those artists.
“I read all the reviews,” he says. “I remember the first review I ever read about our band was, ‘They’ll be gone tomorrow; they’ll be gone quicker than they came.’ ”
Seven years and more than 9 million albums later, pop punkers Good Charlotte are not only still standing, but proudly proclaiming a return three years after the release of 2004’s “The Chronicles of Life & Death.”
“Ben said something a couple of weeks ago that I thought was really interesting,” says vocalist Joel of Benji, his twin brother and the group’s guitarist. “It was ‘I don’t know if we’re the most rock ’n’ roll band in pop or the most pop band in rock ’n’ roll.”’
Indeed, Good Charlotte straddles the line. The Madden brothers have all the requisite rocker markings: they sport multiple tattoos and piercings, they dress in all black, they chain smoke Camels; but their music and unfailing politeness give away their pop leanings. “You couldn’t really put us in a category right now; we’re kind of out there on our own,” says Joel.
“Good Morning Revival” celebrates that refusal to be pigeonholed. The first single, “The River,” is straight-ahead rock, while “Dance Floor Anthem” is an instantly infectious toe-tapper and “Keep Your Hands off My Girl” would sound at home on the latest album from the Killers or the Gorillaz. With “Revival,” the twins felt a small reinvention was in order “to keep ourselves interested,” says Benji. “We’ve been in this band since we were 16.”
Band returns to former producerAdditionally, Good Charlotte, which also includes bassist Paul Thomas, guitarist Billy Martin and drummer Dean Butterworth, needed to right itself after “Chronicles” sold only 1.1 million copies in the United States, well below the 3.4 million units moved by 2002’s “The Young and the Hopeless.” But the Maddens say they never thought “Chronicles” was anything other than a success, since it expanded the band’s international audience.
“The only time I was disappointed was when someone told me it was a failure,” Joel says dryly as they sit at a Starbucks at the very un-rock star time of 8:30 a.m. (Joel was heading to Disneyland to celebrate their 28th birthday a day early.)
Paradoxically, to move forward the band looked to its past by enlisting Don Gilmore, who produced its self-titled 2000 debut.
“You find as the years go on and you have some success, people kind of start to say yes when they should say no,” says Benji.
From their past relationship with Gilmore, they knew he was no yes-man, and he quickly reminded them of that. The Maddens played Gilmore 40 new songs and he rejected every tune outright except for “Keep Your Hands off My Girl.”
“I was like, ‘Hmmm, you’ve written all these songs, and there’s only one good one. What’s wrong?’ ” says Gilmore, who’s also produced Linkin Park and Avril Lavigne. He decided the twins needed to get away from the distractions of Los Angeles and focus solely on the music. They headed to Vancouver, British Columbia, and “the first day they wrote a great song, and we were like, ‘OK, that wasn’t so hard,’ ” Gilmore says. “Every day yielded a song.”
Gilmore says the Maddens lock into something special creatively: “When just the two of them write, it’s a fast, quick thing. It’s not labored over.”
Benji was born five minutes before Joel and seems every bit the older brother. He listens intently when Joel talks, but will often chime in in a protective manner, especially when talking about dealing with the tabloid press.
“A lot of time I have to be the person who just goes, ‘Hey dude, don’t even trip. Don’t worry about it,’ ” Benji says.
Since the last album, both brothers have become paparazzi fodder. Joel dated pop princess Hilary Duff for close to three years and then upped the tabloid ante when he started seeing Nicole Richie in December. While it’s easy to assume “Revival” tunes like the up-tempo “Victims of Love” or Coldplay-esque “Where Would We Be?” are inspired by Joel’s romantic life, he’s quick to dismiss that notion.
“There isn’t a song on the record about my last relationship,” he says emphatically, never mentioning Duff by name. “Me and Benj write the lyrics, and Benj writes most of the love songs. Benj is kind of the more sensitive one.”
Benji admits that’s true. Besides, he’s the one who went through a tough breakup between albums, but is now happily engaged to Australian actress Sophie Monk. While the two have yet to set a wedding date, he has acknowledged the permanence of the relationship with his newest tattoo: Monk’s name and likeness on his inside left wrist.
Even though he is loathe to complain, Joel wishes the focus would get back on the music.
“It’s frustrating, because this band is my life and you have people now who are only interested in (my personal life),” Joel says. “I did all these radio (interviews), and that’s all they wanted to talk about. ... I’m like, ‘Am I wasting my time? What am I even making these calls for?’ ”
But the Madden Brothers still find respite in their music — and believe when people look past the celebrity fodder, they will as well.
“I think that’s the one thing we have to rest on,” Benji says. “Of that whole world, we’re doing something real. That stuff can come and go, and whether a million people are buying the record or 50,000, we’re still making real records.”