Avril Lavigne, 'The Best Damn Thing' (RCA)

7
The Best Damn Thing
Critical Mass
Label: RCA

by Trevor Kelley

When everyone's favorite sk8er grrrl was last heard from, she'd not only delivered a surprisingly mature second album, 2004's Under My Skin, but had noticeably refined her public image. The striped ties and Dickies shorts? Gone -- replaced by a sultry new look that landed her in the pages of fashion magazines. Her sound shifted also, as Lavigne began churning out the kind of dark alt rock that's usually associated with Amy Lee's psychodrama on the Evanescence tour bus.

Despite her rather serious career makeover, on this light-hearted follow up, Lavigne returns to the infectious hooks and mall-punk guitars that made her famous. At first it seems like an odd regression. Why would she ever want to record another bratty anthem like "I Don't Have to Try" or a campy Stefani-esque single like "Girlfriend"?

The answer is simple: because it's more fun. A few piano ballads aside, The Best Damn Thing rarely takes itself too seriously, and throughout, Lavigne spruces up her sound with pep-squad chants and funky hip-hop rhythms. The results probably won't further her reputation as a credible adult artist. But for now, she's happy to start another riot at the food court.

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