Five years after Get Your Heart On!, Simple Plan have released their 5th studio album, Taking One For The Team. It’s a surprisingly diverse offering – their latest collaborations seem to have lead to much genre-dabbling and experimentation. The old Simple Plan is very much present in the record, but a new, more exploratory voice seems to emerge as the album progresses. Here is a track-by-track breakdown of Taking One For The Team:
1. ‘Opinion Overload’ has an unusually heavy start that soon settles into SP’s melodic brand of pop-punk. It’s a song about rebellion and standing up for who you are. It’s a protest against judgement, a good old-fashioned ‘rage against the machine’, as it were. Here, SP have taken Mr Schneebly’s advice to heart, and truly ‘stuck it to the man’.
2. ‘Boom’ is a beautifully cheesy love song, and everything you ever wanted to hear from your significant other (well, maybe). It’s as Simple Plan as ever – every bit as lovestruck and adolescent as their 2002 hit ‘I’d Do Anything’ (which, incidentally, was featured on an episode of Scooby Doo!) The band expresses their affection in a torrent of compliments and sweet nothings: ‘You’re my favourite song/ My sing-along/ You shine bright like lighters in the dark.’ Like I said, corny but completely adorable.
3. ‘Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching’ has an intro vaguely reminiscent of Fall Out Boy’s ‘Dance Dance’. And I’m a fan of anything that reminds me of early Fall Out Boy. Again, the song captures the intensity of young love, and personally, I totally fell for the bridge: ‘Now I’m burnin’ up I’m speaking in tongues/ Listen to my heart it’s beating like a drum/ I’m screaming your name at the top of my lungs/ I don’t care what people might think/ I got your name in permanent ink/ ‘Cause baby this ship ain’t never gonna sink.’ Aw, now isn’t that sweet?
4. ‘Farewell’ is a duet between SP’s Pierce Bouvier and Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory, and the two frontmen compliment each other perfectly. This one has a slightly sour, bittersweet edge – as the title indicates, it’s all about prolonged, slightly tearful goodbyes. However, SP express themselves with just as much energy as the previous tracks (the big weepy ballad comes later).
5. ‘Singing in the Rain’ seems to be the track where the genre-dabbling starts. It’s a collaboration with hip-hop duo R. City, one which resulted in a cool fusion between two very different styles of music. It’s pop-punk with a slightly calypso edge – not what you’d normally expect from SP, but still very fun and thoroughly optimistic.
6. ‘Everything Sucks’ is basically a gloomy love song with a disarmingly happy tune. Abject misery thinly veiled with cheery melodies is always good material for a pop-punk song!
7. ‘I Refuse’ is the ultimate outsider anthem. Here, the band return to their old themes: they advocate defiance and individuality; they give a voice to the struggle against oppression and the pressure to fit in. Non-conformists through and through, they assert the classic pop-punk attitude that everyone should adopt. (Although then it wouldn’t be non-conformist…hmm, what a paradox.)
8. ‘I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed’ errs on the pop side of pop-punk; it’s a lively track, with a catchy, relentless beat. The song is another collaboration, this time with Nelly. Again, the result is a mishmash of styles that fit together weirdly well. It has a vaguely 80s funk vibe; I mean, you could probably imagine rollerblading to it in a strobe-lit disco. Now there’s a fun image.
9. ‘Nostalgic’ is exactly that – it’s a track reminiscent of the Simple Plan that we all know and love. Like ‘Farewell’, it’s a song which looks back on lost love, regret and various other little miseries that we can all relate to. Listen to this when you’re in the mood for a bit of a (lively) brood over things gone by.
10. ‘Perfectly Perfect’ is an absolutely beautiful acoustic track. Like ‘Boom’, the song has an undeniably pubescent edge – it reads and sounds a little like a teenage love letter – but it’s all the sweeter for it. Case in point: ‘You brush it off every time I tell you/ Your smile lights up the room/ And I’m guessing that you don’t even notice/ The whole world notices you.’ Mushy mushy mushy stuff. But I do love it.
11. ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Sad’ is a somewhat Glee-esque offering, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s probably the exact lift you need on a bad day. Probably. I personally can’t take too much relentless cheeriness (it actually makes me want to hit things with a stick), but don’t be swayed by the opinions of a misery-guts.
12. ‘P.S. I Hate You’ is the bitterest of bitter break-up songs. It’s a cathartic expression of resentment and angst: ‘We’re done and it’s over/And now the fairytale is up in flames/ […] And if there’s one thing in this life I know is true/ It’s that I wish I never met you.’ Oh dear. That does not sound like it ended well. Listen to this when filled with pent-up rage…and you’ll probably accumulate a bit more pent-up rage, but at least then you’ll be listening to Simple Plan (and that’s always a good thing.)
13. ‘Problem Child’ is yet more proof that Simple Plan aren’t just about hooks and happy tunes. Again, it’s reminiscent of their early days, particularly their 2002 release ‘Perfect’. This is a song for anyone who’s ever felt like a disappointment, either to themselves or to someone else. It’s a melancholy reminder of what it is to be human.
14. ‘I Dream About You’ features the awesome Juliet Simms, and takes the form of a weirdly ethereal love ballad. It’s a confession of obsession and devotion, of yearning and helpless adoration. One of my favourite things about the track (aside from Juliet) is the eerily beautiful orchestral fills between the verses. I’m always a sucker for a sad violin. And, what’s more, the singers nail those harmonies. After ‘Remembering Sunday’ and ‘Black Ink Revenge’, I’ve come to expect nothing less of Juliet Simms.
Oh, and there’s a hidden track: a fake sports announcement, as far as I can make out. Am happy to say that I’m not even joking.