Avril offers ‘Best,’ fails miserably

By Gus Bode

Avril Lavigne “The Best Damn Thing”

Release Date: April 17

Record Label: RCA Records

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Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 Stars

Neither age nor marriage seems to have mellowed snotty, snarky Canadian pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne on her ironically titled “The Best Damn Thing.”

Nearly a decade has passed since the singer’s multi-platinum debut, but Lavigne remains mired both lyrically and musically in adolescence. Despite a few well-placed melodies, bowdlerized but infectious punk riffs and a few chanted choruses, Lavigne’s own arrested development is what’s most apparent on “Best Damn Thing.” Instead of growing alongside her sizeable audience, the singer is still pandering relentlessly to 13-year-old girls.

Filled with milquetoast female empowerment anthems and blithe whining supposedly signifying individuality and strength, Lavigne’s latest, and maybe Lavigne herself, is still nothing more than a marketing gimmick aimed at bilking young fans out of a quick buck.

Tunes such as the sparse, thumping of “Girlfriend,” the up-tempo girl-power rhetoric of “I Can do Better” and the distorted guitar lines of “One of Those Girls” are little more than pop-infused, girl-punk clich�s. Lavigne ventures into handclaps and chanted choruses on the album’s whiney title track, while “I Don’t Have to Try” sounds like a rock version of a Gwen Stefani B-side.

The album is not quite as bad as “American Idol”-style pop preening, but its little more than bland, predictable and wholly unimpressive. Lavigne is the musical equivalent of sorbet: not exactly flavorless per se, but certainly not distinct.

While Lavigne’s rock-oriented material is catchy but vapid, the maudlin, insipid ballads that pepper “Best Damn Thing” kill any momentum the record builds over its scant 40-minute duration. The acoustic strumming and piano underpinnings of “When You’re Gone” and the morose, breathy “Innocence” are standard pop fare. A string section and jangly guitars accentuate the downbeat “Keep Holding On, “but it’s Lavigne’s lyrics that drag these tunes into the area of near laughable self parody.

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It’s true I’m not Lavigne’s target audience by any stretch, and maybe that’s why the appeal of an artist who’s sold almost 20 million records eludes me entirely. Maybe if I were a 12-year-old girl “The Best Damn Thing” would be the greatest album ever. As it is, however, the music is little more than standard Butch Walker and Rob Cavallo production serving as bedrock for smarmy, inept lyrics and a few stock melodies.

It could have been interesting to see where a grownup Lavigne could have gone with topics of adulthood, but the singer seems permanently cemented as little more than an angry teenager with a chip on her shoulder.

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