Sum 41’s latest more than warmed-over ‘Dookie’

With a snottier and more humorous veneer than many of their pop-punk contemporaries, Canadian imports Sum 41 quickly made a name for themselves as wisecracking Canucks drawing heavily from the likes of California punks NoFX, Green Day and others. While the platinum success “All Killer, No Filler” made them mainstays on MTV and modern rock radio, the group’s latest, “Does This Look Infected?” (with its accompanying DVD “Cross the T’s and Gouge out Your Eyes”) goes well beyond the group’s punk roots to show a more stylistically and lyrically diverse band of still merry pranksters.

With the release of Green Day’s seminal album “Dookie” in 1994, a floodgate was open for largely mediocre pop-punk the world over. Few group’s, however (Good Charlotte, Simple Plan and Blink 182, I am looking in your general directions), have been able to get past simple arrangements, dilettantish lyrics and a smattering of well-placed hooks. In many respects, Sum 41 shares much with the aforementioned punk brigade, though the Ajax natives have made great strides away from the Green Day archetype with the aptly-titled “Infected.”

Shedding the snotty sneering, Sum 41 has gone in a tighter, more metallic direction emphasizing simple but effective song structures and the tightest guitar work the group has ever produced. Tracks like “Hell Song” are rife with bouncy riffs and standard pop fare with the welcome addition of added depth both musically and lyrically. On “Over My Head (Better Off Dead),” the group utilizes building dynamics to perfectly punctuate staccato riffing and a stuttering delivery vocalist Deryck Whibley has so often relied on.

The grinding guitars and patchwork quality of “” and wah-wah tinged melody and chanted vocals of “Billy Spleen” add a good deal of variety to an album that could easily get bogged down in typical punk trappings. Even on tracks like “Hooch,” with its blazing chord progression and spewed delivery (which sounds oddly reminiscent of P.O.D.’s hit “Boom”) the group manages to avoid utter mediocrity.

It is on more metallic numbers like “Still Waiting,” with its Iron Maiden meets Bad Religion approach and the lightning-fast Judas Priest-style riffery and Whibley’s ample screech on “Mr. Amsterdam” that the group shows its true colors, however. When hampered by simplistic punk conventions, the band is hit and miss, but as a metal band, they shine (even if the guise is largely ironic).

Sum goes back to the well one too many times, however, to make “Does This Look Infected?” truly great. Songs like “My Direction” and “Thanks For Nothing” stand simply as warmed-over versions of previous hits providing little more than formulaic suburban whining and rap-meets-rock, respectively. Again, “A.N.I.C.” is a mere 37-second blast of drums and guitar simmering below a garbled delivery and profanity. Even on the catchy “All Messed Up,” the group can’t help but sound eerily like seminal So-Cal punks NoFX.

While “Does This Look Infected?” is filled with great hooks and catchy melodies, much of the material blithely bleeds together, making it better background music than anything else. The true gem in this package, however, is the album’s accompanying DVD “Cross the T’s and Gouge Out Your Eyes.” Clocking in at more than twice the length of the album, the DVD offers a comical window into a band known as much for its sense of humor and mischievous ways as for its music.

With live footage as well as mini documentaries on the band, “Gouge Out Your Eyes” is entertaining if not at times moronic. The best feature, however, is a mockumentary of the band’s nihilistic alter egos Pain For Pleasure who claim to be the greatest band on earth despite never actually playing a show.

With more than 2 hours of entertainment between the two disks, buy “Does This Look Infected?” for the music, stay for the DVD.