|With "The Best Damn Thing," Avril Lavigne returns to the style of her debut CD, but without the substance. (Mark Liddell)|
Avril's latest 'Thing' is fizzy, and frivolous
Avril Lavigne burst onto the music scene five years ago as a cheeky teen rocker ready to reclaim the airwaves from the factory-assembled pop tarts. She was 17 and lines like "He was a punk/ She did ballet/ What more can I say?" sounded just right. Then, at 19, Lavigne made a singer-songwriter album, full of minor keys and sullen reflections. It wasn't much fun and sold half as much as "Let Go." For reasons that require little explanation, Lavigne takes a giant, calculated, silly step backward on her third CD, " The Best Damn Thing" -- to the youthful spunk, but sadly not the precocious range of her debut CD.
Now 22, recently married to Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley (who produced a pair of tracks), Lavigne has returned to high school. The entire album seems to take place in the girl's bathroom -- the one in "Mean Girls." Petty rivalries and stupid fights are set to fast, bratty chords and candied hooks. The songs are furiously bouncy and unbelievably vapid. "She's like so whatever/ You could do so much better/ I think we should get together now," Lavigne pouts in the first single, "Girlfriend," which is about stealing a boy from a mild-mannered classmate. It sounds great -- fizzy and snotty and unbelievable catchy. Somewhere in the world it's 10 p.m. and girls are bouncing on their beds.
Let's hope they're up for a sleepless night, because " The Best Damn Thing," in stores today, is a wicked long pep rally. Toni Basil's '80s anthem "Mickey" is the sonic touchstone, and while it may seem imprudent to model an entire album on a one-hit wonder, let's remember what big fun it was. Perky hand claps and a cocky cheer ("Gimme an A! Gimme a V! Gimme an R!," you know the rest) form the conceptual spine of the title track, and lots of "Hey, this!" and "Hey, that!" is sprinkled liberally throughout. Bad boyfriends inspire threats like "I will drink as much Limoncello as I can/And I'll do it again and again." So snarls the singer (on "I Can Do Better"), who has recently told anyone with a pen and notebook that she recorded the track drunk on the sweet stuff. So that's why she has a fit of giggles at the end of this venomous kiss-off.
There are three power ballads on the disc, all sturdy Kelly Clarkson knockoffs. (Clarkson's Swedish collaborator Dr. Luke is all over this disc.) But they serve as little more than empty rest stops on a giddy ribbon of highway headed straight to teen girls' petulant hearts and precious playlists.