CD Review of Simple Plan by Simple Plan
Recommended if you like
Something Corporate,
New Found Glory, Sum 41
Label
Atlantic/Lava
Simple Plan: Simple Plan

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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T
he death of a musical trend is always hard on the bands that capitalized on it, but the B- and C-level acts are always hardest hit. They aren’t built for the long haul anyway, and without the mindless hordes to prop them up, they’ve got less time than their better-known peers to tack with the changing tides. What it generally comes down to is staying on the radio at all costs – usually by making the safest, least offensive music possible – which is how we end up with albums like Simple Plan.

This is not to suggest that Simple Plan has ever been anything but safe and inoffensive, but the band’s brand of mall punk used to have teeny-weeny, adorable little serrated edges, and they’ve been sanded off here. Everything you need to know about this album is summed up in the following five words, taken directly from the credits section of the liner notes: “Pro-Tools by Jeremy Parker.” (Added bonus in the following five words: “Mixed by Chris Lord-Alge.”) Punk-pop too rough for you? Here it is, without the punk.

It’s certainly worth mentioning that, strictly speaking, there are no bad songs here, at least if your definition of “bad music” is limited to the tone-deaf or totally hook-free. Simple Plan’s 11 tracks are all carefully crafted to give the listener just enough of everything focus groups and professional songwriters have determined will part teenagers from their money – namely, politely insistent drums, sensitive yet slightly snotty vocals, thoroughly non-threatening guitars, and just enough keyboards to wash it all down with the sickeningly sweet aftertaste of Hawaiian Punch mixed with Splenda.

Imagining that these songs were written with any kind of artistic goals in mind beggars belief, so it’s sort of pointless to evaluate Simple Plan on artistic merits; all that matters – certainly all that matters to the folks at Atlantic – is whether or not it’ll sell, and it seems a safe bet that at least one of these songs will gain a manicured toehold on the Hot 100. Hell, if the record industry wasn’t in what appears to be the final throes of music-biz Dutch Elm disease, Simple Plan might have wound up becoming the 21st century equivalent of Toto IV – it’s that mannered, that polished, that utterly anonymous an album.

While they’re trying to keep their record deal by working with Danja Hills and Max Martin, though, the guys in Simple Plan would do well to consider the example set by the countless bands before them who bent over for the fickle whims of the record-buying public. Once you start down the slippery slope of buffing up and dumbing down your sound, it’s awfully hard to change direction. The next thing you know, you’re the Goo Goo Dolls, your band’s balls have been missing for over a decade, and your doofus lead singer is judging contestants on a game show – or worse still, you’re Sugar Ray, and the group only gets together to play casinos and state fairs between your doofus lead singer’s day gig hosting “Extra.” A simple plan indeed.

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