CD Review: Avril Lavigne

The Best Damn Thing RCA
Music •• Sound
The very least we should expect from a modern pop star is a good hairstyle. Yet Avril Lavigne has allowed herself to be photographed for the back of her CD booklet with a nightmare of a spiked-and-teased mid-1980s 'do. It's a true fashion disaster that will probably haunt her for years to come. And if you think that criticism sounds superficial, wait 'til you hear the CD.

That photo in fact represents what's wrong with The Best Damn Thing. It's the kind of album that equates growing up with cosmetic change, not real progress. Lavigne initially stood out from the teen-pop pack because she seemed the most genuine - a real teen doing real teen outbursts and calling most of her own shots. Yet here she is, two albums and 5 years later, still trying to sound like a teenager, writing lines like "I hate you / Why are guys so lame?" when she's old enough to be a college graduate. And this time, it's all done by committee, with collaborators including mixer Tom Lord-Alge (king of the glossed-up '80s radio sound) and the overemployed songwriting hack Butch Walker.

Lavigne has at least dropped the teen angst of her sophomore effort, Under My Skin, and gone for a more fizzy, mall-friendly approach. And there's no denying that the opening "Girlfriend" is one of the catchiest singles of the year, with an energy that nearly knocks you over. One big problem, though: It's a direct rip-off of the Rubinoos' late-1970s power-pop nugget "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." In fact, it's practically the same song - "Get Off of My Cloud" quote and all. Since nobody from the Rubinoos gets a songwriting credit, we can only hope that they've already got their lawyers on the line.