George Mason Law School

Simple Plan missteps in move away from pop-punk

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February 15, 2008

11:44 AM

Simple Plan’s new, self-titled album is a pastiche of every pop-rock cliche from recent years. The Canadian pop-rock band employs producers Dave Fortman (Evanesence) and Max Martin (Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne) to make them sound like an amalgamation of every radio single currently in line for the next “Now That’s What I Call Music!” series.

p. For a band who poses for promo shots with lip rings, black T-shirts and angular haircuts, its decision to employ Nate “Danja” Hills — the producer of “Promiscuous” and “SexyBack” — equates to Carrie Underwood calling up Mastodon to produce her new Wal-Mart single.

p. The album’s first single, “When I’m Gone,” begins with synth tinkering and a hip-hop beat. Despite simplistic, staccato guitar playing and layered “Whoa-ohs,” lead singer Pierre Bouvier sings the smartest lyric of his career: “It’s like we’re goin’ through the motions / Of a scripted destiny.”

p. It is Bouvier’s scripted destiny, then, to Auto-Tune the crap out of his vocals — this transforms his already nasally whine into the voice of a Canadian robot that speaks only in profoundly inane couplets such as, “If these walls could talk / They would have so much to say” (“No Love”).

p. There are three slow ballads that showcase rhymes like “beating” and “bleeding” and “right” and “face” (which, of course, don’t even rhyme). On “Your Love Is a Lie,” the boy-band synthesizer hand-clap resurfaces after years of hiding. Drummer Chuck Comeau includes some inexplicable double bass drum kicks before lead guitarist Jeff Stinco (his real name) cooks up a generic solo.

p. The verses are reminiscent of Oasis’s “Wonderwall,” but Bouvier tries to be edgier when he sings, “And do you think about me when he fucks you?” This line is great, especially since it was written 14 years ago by Alanis Morissette in “You Oughta Know.” The band even pays cute homage to U2 in “Holding On” with echoing guitars and Bono Lite vocals.

p. “Generation,” however, takes the cheesecake. Clearly produced by Danja, it opens with synth trumpets a la the Ying Yang Twins before Bouvier demands that we “Listen.” If one does just that, he finds blue-eyed crunk music blending rap and rock just like the famous ’90s band, Korn Bizkit. Simple Plan is even bold enough to snag two of the most famous rock lyrics in history. Bouvier sings, “It’s just my generation” before guitarist Sebastien Lefebvre and bassist David Desrosiers chime in with “Hey ho / Let’s go!”
If Joey Ramone doesn’t roll over in his six-foot eight-inch grave, I’m going to assume that the lyric actually reads “eh oh” because they’re from Canada.

p. All Simple Plan bashing aside, the album is not entirely the band’s fault. The producers mixed the guitars and drums too loudly. Bouvier has to strain his voice to be heard, hence the Auto-Tune. The producers seem to be the wrong fit for the band. Rave-ups like “Take My Hand” and “What If” would sound better on Avril Lavigne’s next album. The more positive note is that the musicianship is executed efficiently, despite being simplistic and rarely boasting more than three chord progressions.

p. Sadly, efficiency does not earn stars. Simple Plan aims for radio gold on this, their third full-length album. However, the band misses the mark. Next time, rather than taking a step in the hip-hop direction, Simple Plan should find comfort in pop-punk, an altogether more welcoming genre that forgives trite lyrics.

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