Though Good Charlotte is a pop-punk success, the group isn’t a heavyweight in either the punk or the pop department. Granted, angst and hooks galore are scattered throughout the band’s catalog, but none of it particularly sticks. Good Charlotte’s fifth album, Cardiology, is its first for Capitol Records, and it’s the perfect opportunity for leaders Benji and Joel Madden to finally make some sort of stab at decency; Good Charlotte’s last album, 2007’s Good Morning Revival, was a poorly received foray into slick, synthesizer-heavy dance-rock, and the Madden Twins have already touted Cardiology as a return to form. What’s that worth? As it turns out, zip. Although the new album opens promisingly with Beach Boys-esque a cappella before kicking into a handful of bland yet workable pop-punk tunes, the middle backslides into watered-down dance-rock. Cardiology’s first single, “Like It’s Her Birthday,” follows the post-Killers formula of Good Morning’s “I Don’t Wanna Be In Love (Dance Floor Anthem).” From there, it’s a slippery slope into laminated, overprocessed banalities like “Last Night” and “Alive.” The sad thing is, the Maddens actually have a rare gift: In spite of their lack of vision, they’re achingly earnest when it comes to delivering simple tales of romantic confusion, domestic strife, and soaring triumph. But when that earnestness is chained to clubfooted dance songs and cold, odorless production, as it is in Cardiology, you’d never guess it’s there.
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