* - Despite the following review, this is my guilty pleasure.
Plain White T's came out of Chicago during a time when "emotional pop-punk" was rampant. This was the big thing before the "emo screamo" or whatever you want to call it. As this was one of the many bands picked up by labels when the floodgates opened, there is very little originality here. You know the drill: mid-tempo poppy songs about girls. But in an ocean of this crap, this album is slightly above average.
The album ironically starts with "Stop." Right away you can tell what you are getting. It's mid-tempo with upbeat guitar licks. None of the album's songs really pick up speed; most of the songs stay at this tempo. This standard is interrupted a few times with some slow songs like "Runaway" or "A Lonely September." Everyone in the band plays competently, but the nature of the music is fairly basic pop-punk. The drums stay consistent throughout the whole album, and the bass comes in strong, but only when the guitars drop out, or are played acoustically. There's some nice jangly guitar in "Runaway," some rocking riffs in "What If," and a fun little intro to "Your Fault." But besides these few interesting parts, it's all standard fare.
The vocals are fairly inoffensive. They don't come across as whiny and could be a hell of a lot worse. There are some nice vocal harmonies here and there, which is always a plus. The problem, though, is the lyrics. They are terrible. The lyrics are about as good as something I would have written in for an 8th grade band; "So just stop, stop playing around, I'm ready to take you home and make it real again". Ugh! Or how about, "I know I'm not perfect but what makes him so fucking cool? He's just another little punk like the rest of them, the kid's just another tool." It's 90% garbage about girls and the other 10% is your typical teen angst sung by twenty-somethings on their way out of adolescence. The lyrics focus a lot on the "screw you Iā??m fed up" attitude, immediately followed by the "you are so amazing" stuff. "Happy Someday" is your typical "I hate work" song, but like many of the other songs, it suffers from poor lyrics about wearing a uniform and having to pay off bills.
So let's review:
Music: Basic and unoriginal, with a few moments of innovation.
Vocals: Decent, good harmonizing here and there.
Now, despite everything I have said, this album is fairly decent, for what it is. Songs like "What If," "Fireworks," and "Penny (Perfect For You)," while insipid, are still fun, poppy songs. There might not be anything original on here, but it makes for a decent counterpoint to other less poppy, more rockin' music. It's something that if you find in the used bin for five bucks you should pick it up. Just please, PLEASE ignore the juvenile lyrics.