While Plan-It-X Records may be synonymous with stringent DIY ethics, social consciousness and an anti-consumerist mentality, musically they seem to have become synonymous with overly poppy near-twee sentiments. Sure, there are exceptions like releases from This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb, Against Me! and, more recently, Halo Fauna, but for the most part Plan-It-X is home to the sugar-saturated sounds of artists like Ghost Mice, Captain Chaos, the Four Eyes and Madeline who seem like they would be more at home at a slumber party with hi-five contests (yes, everyone wins) and baked goods than a basement show.
Plan-It-X artists all seem to be wearing rose-colored glasses while writing lyrics that are blatant stabs at being cute. These musicians may appear to be in sharp contrast to punk's nihilistic and destructive side, but they seem to be just as extreme in their myopic view. It may not all be death, devastation, and existentialism, but it also isn't all bike rides, kisses and smiley anecdotes. And that's what makes formulating an opinion on Romance Conflict Adventure so difficult.
Best Friends Forever sound like they grew up listening to nothing but new wave and the K Records catalogue. This makes for an interesting and more developed sound than most of Plan-It-X's folk-punk roster. Playful organ parts that move from excited romps to Scooby-Doo horror schtick punch in and out over a fantastic rhythm section. The basslines are detailed and propulsive works that show an impressive range of groove and funk, while the drumming is excited and creative. Guitar reminiscent of Beat Happening also pops up on most of the tracks, while vocally Best Friends Forever feature cheeky harmonized female voices that fit the Plan-It-X mold better than anything else here.
Songs like "24" and "HWF" are animated romps sure to get the kids dancing, while "Handpocket" and "Eisenhower Is the Father" are slower, more relaxed pop pieces with a sunny California disposition. While the music and melodies are appealing and enjoyable, it's the group's lyrics that often make these songs occasional whim-listening rather than a constant in the rotation -- that is, of course, unless you enjoy what reads like an adolescent take on Kerouac or a grade school assignment to write something "emo."
Alright, maybe that was a bit harsh, but it's hard to take a song seriously that has lyrics like "My blanket sends you a postcard saying, â??It's not the same without you here' / My pillow would like for you to know that a piece of it dies whenever you go." Another case in point is "Ghost Song," which sounds strangely like labelmates Soophie Nun Squad complete with hip-hop breakdown, but the song is about being in love with a ghost that features lines like "Put your ghostly tongue in my mouth and move it all around," and "Anyway he's probably shooting blanks / but if not, so what we'll have a half-ghost baby."
"Tape Song" may be the standout track here with its fantastic melody, simple guitarline and bass bounce, but vocalists Briana Smith and Jessica Seamans spend much of the song rhyming geographical locations with their names and feelings. Yep, I learned that Jessica rhymes with Philadelphia, Briana rhymes with Montana, and smooch rhymes with Minneapolis and Duluth. Still, despite this trite device, "Tape Song" at least seems to tackle a somewhat serious matter -- that is, finding out that a relationship was more fulfilling as a long-distance set of communications rather than as an actual physical tryst.
If you're not a lyric person, or if you don't find the often goofy child-trapped-in-an-adult's-body poetry found here annoying, Romance Conflict Adventure is a charismatic listen full of pleasant musical moments, well-crafted melodies, and some surprising rhythm work. If, however, you find storybook-styled lyrics and twee-compulsions frustrating or best served in small doses then, like I've already said, formulating an opinion on this record is a bit more difficult.