Eminem’s bratty nihilism cracker-jacked the Warped Tour punk party, so why can’t bling-punx Good Charlotte gaffle hip-hop’s business acumen? There’s branding via ugly apparel (their Hot Topic–adored MADE clothing line), branding via shitty vanity label (GC’s DC Flag label has a roster as dubious as Shady’s. Think Hazen Street : D12 :: Lola Ray : Obie Trice), and self-reflecting lyrics that incriminate and contradict (the title track claims “idiots” say “money talks,” while “I Just Wanna Live” petitions for a punker’s right to floss). It’s as if P. Diddy curated The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle—deft appropriationists Good Charlotte cop punk sub-movements like they’re new Kanye beats: jerking pop-punk in 2000, bawling an emo mega-hit in 2002, and now sporting a swass new goth sheen (though more Invader Zim than Bauhaus).
The upsides to punk-as-product niche marketing: 400-pound-gorilla bands record whatever they want, and if these triple-platinum gorillas want to mix martial Britneybeat, “Lose Yourself” phenome babble, Pharrell faux-soprano, and “Can’t Knock the Hustle” strutting (like on the claustrophobic “I Wanna Live”), they can stick a feather in their new raven cuts and call it punkaroni. Good Charlotte have hooks for days and the fun, gloomy Life and Death sounds like a moody missing link between Fountains of Wayne and Thrice. The downside to punk-as-product niche marketing: an insulting retail campaign. Epic released two versions, each with a different lame bonus track that not only sounds tacked on, but is tacked on. The Hot Topic wrist cuff crowd wants to blow allowance scrilla on its fave rave—but an essentially identical copy of the same record ain’t exactly a Partridge Fam lunch box. There’s even a third version sold exclusively at Target, featuring a live track of “The Anthem.” Good Charlotte spit on overblown celebrities with words, and spit on independent retail in deeds. They got mansions. Think we should rob them?