Music speaks for its generation. Albums and songs consciously and subconsciously echo the emotions, events, and experiences of audiences at large.
Over twenty years into a storied career, Good Charlotte consistently amplify the voice of their era. Similar to how they spoke for a restless post-Y2K zeitgeist at the turn-of-the-century, the iconic multiplatinum modern rock mavericks—brothers Joel [vocals] and Benji Madden [guitar, vocals], Billy Martin [guitar], Paul Thomas [bass], and Dean Butterworth [drums]—pick up the mantle for a world anesthetized and numbed by quick chemical fixes, social media obsession, and pervasive tragedy on their seventh full-length, the appropriately titled Generation Rx [MDDN/BMG]. As always, they encode a hopeful message inside a capsule of D.I.Y. punk energy, expansive rock unpredictability, and widescreen orchestral scope.
It’s as if the quintet siphon the spirit of their formative years through a prism of wisdom gleamed from two decades in the game.
“When we first started, there was this unconscious feeling,” explains Joel. “It’s like we were running our own race. I think we’ve been trying to find the doorway back for a long time. We’ve both learned so much through family and life that we managed to finally find the doorway. It took us fifteen years to get back there, but we did now.”
“We’re happier than ever,” adds Benji. “We’re not operating on anyone’s else’s schedule, time clock, or terms. We’re saying exactly what we want to say and following the feeling that brought us here in the first place.”
Generation Rx would be born from the shared sense of instinctual inspiration that informed the brothers since childhood. In December 2017, Good Charlotte performed a tearful, yet triumphant rendition of “Awful Things” during Lil Peep’s memorial at the request of his mom. Upon returning home to Los Angeles, many heavy thoughts circulated between them.
One January day, Benji approached Joel and simply said, “I feel like we should make a record.”
“We laid some ground rules though,” recalls Joel. “We decided to take as much time as we needed and only work when it felt right. We didn’t approach it with topics in mind. Rather, we wrote from stream-of-consciousness. We didn’t want to hear about anything going on in the outside world or what was on the radio. We tapped back into the place we originally created from before we knew anything.”
“If you really dive in, you’ll get a lot of insight into our lives,” Benji admits. “The title came from the fact our generation was the first one to have so many options to kill pain. Peep’s death hit us really hard. At the same time, we’ve seen the whole opioid crisis get worse firsthand. We wondered if we were really doing our part as the older brothers in the scene. The way to do our part was to get back out on the battlefield and share any wisdom we could to improve lives. We’re all human beings. We all experience pain, but we wanted to show it’s possible to come out on the other side okay.”
In order to capture this message, the band worked differently. Instead of holing up in the studio for the duration of some rigid schedule, they recorded when inspiration struck at MDDN headquarters with Benji and Zakk Cervini behind the board as co-producers.
The fluidity and freedom of the process reflected the music’s urgency. On the first single “Actual Pain,” a swell of cinematic strings buttresses the wall of guitars and drums as an identifiable and infectious hook takes hold, speaking to an overarching theme.
“A big part of pain is mental health,” Joel goes on. “For as much progress as we’ve made, people are still embarrassed to talk about things like bipolar disorder or PTSD. Lyrically, it’s about a relationship where two people have this cloud over them.”
“It’s relatable,” elaborates Benji. “We all feel actual pain. We cover it up. We medicate it. We avoid it. We’re talking about it though.”
Elsewhere, an upheaval of distortion and big screen-worthy orchestration seethes under “Shadow Boxer,” which confronts self-doubt head on. Clean guitar kicks off the pensive “Prayers” before spiraling into thought provoking lyrics and a hummable lead.
“With all of these school shootings, we’re missing the point,” sighs Joel. “There are young people who aren’t safe. They’re the kids. We’re the adults. It’s our job to keep them safe. These different sides are fighting each other. Prayers aren’t being heard. It’s a commentary.”
Sparse piano chords and string bends resound on the emotionally charged “Cold Song,” which serves “as a reminder even though life is full of pain, we’re not alone.”
Penned by Benji, the hyper-charged gut punch of “Leech” gives way to an explosive cameo from Architects frontman Sam Carter and examines, “being abandoned as a child left to figure it out on your own with no guidance.” Meanwhile, “California” concludes with a heartfelt assurance to the brothers’ children that “you can always come home to California.”
Generation Rx ultimately continues a Good Charlotte tradition of empowering listeners with one cleverly catchy anthem after another. 2000’s landmark self-titled debut earned a gold plaque and quietly set the stage for worldwide superstardom. In 2002, they unleashed the now-classic The Young and the Hopeless, which eventually went RIAA triple-platinum and would be lauded in the Top 20 of Rolling Stone’s “50 Greatest Pop-Punk Albums” and BuzzFeed’s “36 Pop Punk Albums You Need to Hear Before You F——ing Die.” 2004’s The Chronicles of Life and Death bowed at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and reached platinum status as Good Morning Revival  and Cardiology  repeated that Top 10 success and brought the band around the world multiple times in front of countless screaming fans.
Following a six-year hiatus, they made a much-lauded return with their first independent offering Youth Authority during 2016. Everyone from N.E.R.D. and Three 6 Mafia to Avenged Sevenfold and Tonight Alive jumped at the chance to collaborate. By 2018, cumulative sales exceeded 11 million worldwide, while accolades encompassed everything from KERRANG! Awards to an MTV VMA. Along the way, they formed a full-service management firm and music company, MDDN, which looks after 21 clients and comprises a team of 16 forward-thinking creative minds.
In the end, Generation RX brings Good Charlotte full circle as they kick off a new chapter.
“By making this album, we get a feeling we’ve been looking for since we were little kids,” Benji leaves off. “Good Charlotte was a way for us to feel understood. We definitely felt that way writing these songs. My biggest hope is that when someone listens to Generation Rx, they feel understood too.”