Today marks the 20th anniversary of Sum 41‘s platinum-selling debut album, All Killer No Filler. The album contained iconic hit singles ‘Fat Lip’, ‘In Too Deep’ and ‘Motivation’. The lead single, ‘Fat Lip’, peaked at number one on the Billboard Rock Tracks and solidified the new dawn of alternative music.
The album is a standard for the pop-punk and, to a lesser degree, skate-punk genres. It continued to follow a lineage of acts that had been pervasive in the ’90s, summed up by the huge influence NOFX’s classic 1994 album Punk in Drublic had on its recording. The metal genre had a huge impact too and ‘It’s What We’re All About’ features metal legend Kerry King, of Slayer fame.
Sum 41’s vocalist Deryck Whibley has also cited Rancid, Elvis Costello, the Beatles and Pennywise as influences on All Killer No Filler. Referencing back to the pop-punk lineage laid out in the ’90s, Green Day have also been mentioned as a huge influence on the album’s composition.
Speaking about the record, Whibley said: “I was about 14 when Dookie came out, I remember seeing the video for ‘Basket Case’ for the first time… It had so much energy and it was so different. I’d never seen anything like it before. From then I was an instant fan.”
In 2013, Absolutepunk described All Killer No Filler as: “The album that your parents don’t want you to discover at age 11 when you’re just starting to think that school is bullshit and the only thing that really matters is that ridiculously cute girl who honestly treats you like shit,” as well as adding: “The lyrics are broad enough that everyone can relate to them, but specific enough that each song makes you think of a certain person or situation in your life. The perfect balance”.
While the album spawned classic singles and featured batshit album tracks like ‘Pain for Pleasure’, All Killer No Filler is also a significant release for another reason. Regardless of what I, you, or other critics may think, 20 long and tumultuous years since release, the album acts as somewhat of a sonic time capsule to a forgotten time in music.
It captures the zeitgeist at the turn of the millennium. Like the Blink-182 releases of the time, it embodies the dumb, gross-out humour that was central to film and music. After all, it was an era defined by films such as the American Pie series and Not Another Teen Movie.
Additionally, bands such as The Offspring were scoring hits with songs such as ‘Original Prankster’ with a music video featuring Redman as the devil, encouraging the titular jokester to fill his dad’s sandwich with dog faeces, amongst other things.
While Blink-182 were certainly a more significant musical player in the era, even appearing as themselves in the first American Pie, All Killer No Filler was a contemporary juggernaut. Along with the music videos for its singles, it delineates the hope espoused by a generation at the turn of the century.
The future looked bright. The ’90s had brought about monumental societal shifts, the internet was in its infancy and consumerism had taken off. Baggy pants, skate shoes and spiky hair were the dominant male look, and denim, crop-tops and whacky sunglasses were ubiquitous in female fashion. This era, which has come to be known as the Y2K era, has recently found its way back into culture.
As we all know, this hope would give way to darker sentiments in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. The image of the World Trade Center complex crumbling in a mass of flames was seared like a branding hot iron into the public consciousness forever more.
Understandably, such a shocking and tragic event culminated in political events that would change the course of humanity and society for the next two decades. The feelings left in the wake of 9/11 sparked a societal shift. The zeitgeist would change, with the likes of the Strokes and Interpol being two main players.
This shift in the cultural mood would be something Sum 41 addressed in the music video for their 2002 single ‘Still Waiting’. Furthermore, this turn in societal norms to a darker space also played its part in giving way to the ill-fated “third wave” of emo, with Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance noting the significance of 9/11 on the band’s formation.
20 years have passed since All Killer No Filler was released to equal amounts of cheer and disgust. Twenty years. Let that sink in, and let all of the key events of the past two decades flash before your eyes. Regardless of its detractors, it has its place. So on its 20th birthday, why not revisit it, it may even give you a glimmer of hope for life returning back to normal in the not too distant future.
For obvious reasons, culture will never fully return to how it was at the turn of the century and that is a great thing, for the most part. However, the simple, tongue-in-cheek nature of the album provides a somewhat refreshing change from the seriousness of society, culture and music today.
Feel old yet?