REVIEW: The Madden Brothers – ‘Greetings From California’


Artist: The Madden Brothers
Album: Greetings From California
Genre: Pop, Rock

The Madden Brothers may have made their mint in the world of pop punk, but their latest collaborative release proves this duo are capable of far more than anyone could have imagined.

Greetings From California is the first release from Benji and Joel Madden to hit shelves under the name The Madden Brothers. It’s a fun and eclectic mix of music that strays far from the rock-driven world most think of whenever the pair are mentioned while digging deep into the works of those who influenced their creativity. My dad loves the record as much as I do, and I think as long as you approach the album with an open mind you too will fall in love.

“Dear Jane” kicks off Greetings From California with a sun-soaked ode to a beautiful girl that is absolutely no good for you. That may seem like the kind of subject matter that would inspire a Good Charlotte single, and in a way you may be right, but here The Madden Brothers deliver something far more pop friendly. It’s still a full band effort, as is the majority of the record, but the hook is so infectious you will have to possess the will of a lion to avoid it taking over your mind for hours on end. I wouldn’t say this sets the tone for everything that follows, but it does make it clear that The Madden Brothers have compiled something quite special for their first release outside the Warped Tour scene.

While the sound of The Madden Brothers’ youth inspired the music you hear on this release, the influences are often so numerous that it can be hard to pinpoint a specific artist or track as having played a role in this album coming to life. That is, except for “We Are Done,” which sounds like The Madden Brothers listened to The Mamas And The Papas’ “California Dreamin’” on repeat for three years and then decided to make it their own. This is not a complaint in the slightest, as the song packs a catchy melody and driving hook that, again, stays with you long after the song comes to an end. It is curious however that the boys turned men who were long thought to have only been raised on punk bands waited until this point in life to share the other side of their history with fans. It feels intimate in a way, as if they feel comfortable enough with listeners to reveal their true identities. That alone makes the album something worth experiencing, but it also enables people to better appreciate and understand everything Joel and Benji have accomplished in the past.

The first half of the record boasts a very positive and uplifting sound, but as the record transitions into its later tracks there are a few less than wonderful moments. “California Rain” and “Brothers,” two songs that appear back to back, simply do not fit the flow of the record. That’s not to say they are poorly written, because they are in fact quite good, but the instrumentation accompanying each track falls a little flat. It may not even be noticeable to people who hear the songs outside the rest of the record, but when considered alongside the rest of Greetings these tracks feel like a collection of great ideas that for one reason or another do not come together with the same memorable nature as the rest of the record. I think a remix could help “California Rain,” but I do not know if that would be enough to make “Brothers” click.

Things pick back up in time for the end of the record, starting with the quasi-ballad “Abby.” It’s a heartfelt song that plays at a speed perfect for swaying back and forth with that special someone in your life. When the chorus hits however, things change and the song begins to build. It calms down for verse two, but then the build is back on, and the track continues to rise and fall throughout its duration. You want to dance as much as you want to pump your first in the air and scream along, which may be a bit disorienting at first for some, but ultimately makes for an exciting listening experience. “Suddenly” and “Empty Spirits,” the two songs that close the record, play far more melancholy than their predecessors. “Empty Spirits” in particular, which is the album’s final track, touches on the idea of long lost love and the way music can bring back all the emotions we often try our hardest to forget against a gorgeous string accompaniment. Some might say it’s typical for Joel and Benji to break out an acoustic guitar for an acoustic ballad near the end of their record, but it works and that’s really all that matters.

I do not know what I expected when I first received the debut album from The Madden Brothers, but I can tell you in complete honesty that what I discovered was far better than anything I could have hoped to find. Joel and Benji Madden are seasoned industry professionals, and with Greetings From California they are finally able to showcase the full extent of their musical prowess. It’s a catchy and entirely unforgettable record that plays as good the first time as the fifteenth, and as long as listeners are able to spin the record with an open mind I think they will all walk away amazed at what this duo have done.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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