JTF’s HS Jams Review — 6) Sum 41 “Half Hour of Power”

Released June 27, 2000; Produced by Greig Nori

It seems like the older I get the more I’m fascinated by looking back and recognizing the events and cultures that shaped me into the man I am today. I frequently tell people that as a child, I didn’t look up to pro athletes and superheroes like most boys (I assume) — No, I was more inspired by professional wrestlers and heavy metal musicians. The theatrics and athleticism involved with professional wrestling always amazed me and the aesthetic of the classic heavy metal musician was what I always aspired to have. 

Because of this, it surprised my parents very little when I started getting tattoos as an adult. It’s even less of a stretch when you come see me teach a boxing class and realize that I’m equal parts pro wrestler and heavy metal musician with my microphone presence and attitude. I like to think I’m what happens between Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Tommy Lee and Angus Young (with a bit of David Bowie thrown in, of course). It’s all there and it’s not even subtle. 

Surprisingly few of my interests as a child have subsided even though I’m now well on my way to 40 years of age. I don’t watch pro wrestling anymore but that doesn’t change the fact that I still look up to those juice heads and how they made me feel as a kid. And while I do still look up to many musicians, I also now realize a lot of their aesthetic at the time was the result of heavy drug use. I still aspire to be these guys in many ways, just in a much smarter way, I guess.

A lot of why this stuff is still relevant to me today, I think, is that I was able to find more “grown-up” types of entertainment that took what I knew as a child and allowed me to grow with it instead of out of it. One of my favorite movies, for instance, is Wayne’s World. The original film came out in 1992 when I was merely eight years old so I admittedly didn’t get a lot of the humor but what I did get was the music references — and I thought Wayne and Garth were both SO COOL! As an adult, I’m still a huge fan of the Wayne’s World franchise — especially due to the fact that they were rock-and-roll movies that weren’t about stoners and/or drunks, something super rare for that genre. 

Eight years later, there was an even dumber movie that played along with the stoner subculture of rock and roll (not really a music movie, of course) that I hated to love so much — 2000’s Dude, Where’s My Car? 

Dude, Where’s My Car? featured a very young Ashton Kutcher, who at that time had (basically) only been in That 70’s Show and Seann William Scott who was hot due to his vile role in American Pie. The film follows two friends through a series of shenanigans as they attempt to find their car — a possession they can’t seem to locate following a wild night of partying. When I say this movie was dumb, I mean it was DUMB. 

What was NOT dumb, however, was the film’s banging soundtrack. The guys bounced around from the drive-thru to a dungeon with Andy Dick to a cult headquarters all while jams from Zebrahead, Superdrag and Good Charlotte played behind them. One jam I really took from the film, however, was called What I Believe and it was by a band called Sum 41. In the year 2000, Sum 41 hadn’t made it all the way to the big screen just yet as their breakout album All Killer, No Filler wouldn’t be released for another year … so I feel very fortunate to have heard them on this movie, saw their name in the credits and was lucky enough to track down their unofficial debut album Half Hour of Power.

6 – Sum 41 — Half Hour of Power 

Half Hour of Power blew me away from the second I dropped it into my CD player. I knew What I Believe from hearing it on Dude, Where’s My Car so I was prepared to hear pop-punk but what are you greeted with right out the gate? Metal. And not just metal, but metal done in the style of New Wave British Heavy Metal! If you’re too impatient to get through the 67-second intro to this record to hear the following songs, one could easily be misled into thinking they accidentally picked up an Iron Maiden demo as album opener Grab the Devil by the Horns and **** Him Up the *** is a multi-guitar-shredding-and-chugging instrumental that’s packed with an energy that, while not punk, is a great setup to the punk rock to follow. 

The second track Machine Gun goes right into the pop-punk that Sum 41 would be known for forevermore, but just within those first two songs you get a gist for what makes this record so special. There are elements of hardcore punk, pop-punk, heavy metal, ska and even hip-hop. There are twists and turns on every other track and it keeps you guessing in a delightful way. Are they the most talented punk band? Are they the heaviest metal band? Are they going to release a ska EP? Are they super talented rappers? The answer is no to all of these questions but you’d be hard-pressed to find another band who can pull off this many genres in such a seamless way. And there are so many elements that show just how talented these guys were as musicians. 

When Half Hour of Power was released, singer/rhythm guitarist Deryck Whibley, lead guitarist David “Hot Chocolate” Baksh and bassist Jason “Cone” McCaslin were only 20 years old while drummer Steve Jocz was only 19! To pull off such a wide range of musical styles — and to do so successfully — is a feat for anyone, let alone guys that young. These guys were only 4 years older than me! 

Strong Points:

What I Believe was the song that turned me onto Sum 41 in the first place (aforementioned, of course). I’m including it on the strong points list because it’s exactly what you want from this album — it’s catchy, it’s pop and it’s punk. Literally nothing more and nothing less. The usual three-power-chord progression layered under a simple lead riff that came to define pop-punk in this era. Though it may be cliche or easy, it’s what is expected and many times that’s exactly what you’re looking for. I compare it to eating at a Mexican restaurant — you’re rarely ever looking for them to push the boundaries or change what you know about Americanized Mexican cuisine. If it hits the bar, that’s exactly what satisfies you and this is the Mexican restaurant version of pop-punk.

THT reminds us that poppy though it may be, Sum 41 knows how punk rock is supposed to work. The music is reminiscent of what you’d hear at an Anti-Flag show or something like the Casualties or Exploited. The vocals are fast and the lyrics are vague. The final command to “Shut up!” adds to the teenage-angst-ridden anger that’s fueling the song. It’s fast, it’s loud and it’s a great punk rock song. 

Second Chance for Max Headroom is a banger for me on this record because of the mash-up of styles they bring to the table. For the most part, the song is a straight-forward pop-punk ditty with the same immature vagueness that permeates the rest of the record. One thing Sum 41 uses that makes them stand out above other similar acts, however, is their gang vocal style and it really shines through on this track. The highlight, however (for me, at least), is the slower breakdown that transitions into ska, then comes back to punk after a hair-metal-esque lead guitar riff — what a rollercoaster!

Favorite Songs 

Grab the Devil by the Horns and **** Him Up the *** may be the perfect way to start a record. At just over 60 seconds, the song sets the tone for the entire pop-punk record with a British heavy metal-style instrumental. Sum 41 has never hidden their love of heavy metal on their records and the fact that they chose to start their debut with such a thrasher is a testament to that. 

Machine Gun is track two and while it’s a straight-up punk song, its intro brings the same shredding energy that Grab the Devil by the Horns touted only with a different style. Other things that make this song near-perfect: the classic punk/metal palm-muted chugging in the verses, the shreddy guitar solo in the middle followed by a bass solo … then a catchy singalong “na-na-na-na-nah” and a thrashy finale. 

If any of your average Joes know an early Sum 41 song it’s probably Makes No Difference. In addition to the not one, but two music videos that accompanied the song, it was also featured in a number of films from that era, not least of which was the hugely popular Van Wilder. As irritating as it may be that horny frat boys across the nation probably then started associating Sum 41 with homoerotic paddling and butt-chugging boxed wine, it got some eyes and ears on the talented band. 

Finally, my favorite part of this entire record is Dave’s Possessed Hair / It’s What We’re All About. It’s the Sum 41 equivalent to Megadeth’s Holy Wars / The Punishment Due in that it’s a two-for-one song. Dave’s Possessed Hair attacks poseurs in the scene (be it the punk scene, the metal scene or just the music industry in general) which is a great rallying cry for all of us who identify with the genre to get behind … regardless of the irony that singer Deryck Whibley once dated Paris Hilton and was at one time married to the queen of poseurs, Avril Lavigne. The transition between songs is another heavy metal-style breakdown with chugging guitars and a fast pace that build up to a punk/metal/hip-hop mashup. “Nevertheless am I dressed for the occasion,” the song starts as each band member takes his turn spitting rhyming dictionary-style rhymes over a funky rhythm. The song doesn’t sound like anything you’d get on a Limp Bizkit or Faith No More record but it’s definitely punk, definitely metal and definitely hip-hop and all three are GREAT! 

While the band’s followup (and proper debut record) All Killer, No Filler (2001) would go all the way up to number 13 in the USA, reaching platinum status and producing multiple top-selling singles, this (in my opinion) better debut, considered an extended play, only hit 176 on the US charts and has yet to receive any status with the RIAA. 

In the United States, the band maxed out with 2007’s Underclass Hero that went to number 7, but nearly every proper release they’ve dropped has landed in the top 10 in their home country Canada. They’re also considered one of Canada’s best-selling Canadian artists. Not too shabby for a band who maybe aren’t the best punk band, metal band, ska band or hip-hop band … but they do them all together better than anyone I’ve ever heard.

Put on this tape and rock your ghetto blaster.

Until next week. 

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