Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: Love Sux • Avril Lavigne




Twenty years ago, Avril Lavigne interrupted popular music with a skateboard in one hand and a guitar in the other. Today, she’s ready to do it again: Love Sux, her seventh studio record and the most invigorated Avril Lavigne release in recent history, is an unprecedented reinvestment in mainstream pop punk this side of 2020. The new record regains any momentum lost in the adult contemporary puddle that was Head Above Water, a well-intentioned testament to Lavigne’s dedication through a fight with a chronic illness. In 30 minutes flat, Lavigne is worry free and forever young once again.

Lead single “Bite Me,” an instantly essential Avril Lavigne song, raised the middle finger – and it remains up for most of the record, as similarly sharp hooks, raging guitars, and heavy drumwork power the bite-sized songs here. John Feldmann, a veteran behind the production boards, and Mod Sun, a pop-punk implant by way of rap music, build up a heavy-handed framework through which Lavigne punches and kicks. As contemporary beats and flairs sneak their way into many mixes, the album feels more like a refreshed take on the genre than a nostalgic retelling of a plastic-studded, pink-dyed heyday.

Spare ballad “Dare to Love Me” and perhaps the electro-hued mid-tempo “Avalanche,” most of the record is built on the same punchy pop-punk framework: Avril Lavigne is one pissed woman on these tracks, and the music sure reflects that. And as she rushes through the tracks at record speed, there’s no doubt that they can begin to collide into each other. Which song is which? Sometimes, it’s hard to tell – but that argument doesn’t hold much water when the hooks are as sharp as those on “F.U.” or the fittingly titled “Déjà vu.”

Much of Avril Lavigne’s career has been marked with a perceived lack of agency: Her second studio album was put on a six-month deadline and her fourth was formed between the pressures of a steadfast Lavigne and bureaucratic dictations. But on Love Sux, she seems completely in control of her own legacy, no matter how juvenile or coarse it may be. (Yes, there are some forced rhymes and “nah, nah, nah” chants here. They’re standard features of an Avril Lavigne record. Oh, and she threatens to buy a Range Rover, which she will use to run over a man who did her wrong.) She’s back to living the rockstar lifestyle, and she’s doing it her own way this time.

Love Sux is available now under DTA and Elektra Records.

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Maira Gall