Dominika Marsova who is Simple Plan.cz web master and has worked tirelessly to be the number one site for Simple Plan’s news for 11 years has written a review on their new album. You can see the original review here. Domi has been a great friend of mine for years and I thank her for her detailed review.
SIMPLEPLAN.CZ REVIEW: TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM [9/10]
Just like with my review of Simple Plan’s book, I hesitated before I sat down to write this review of their new record. Why? That’s easy – being a fan for 11 years, a fansite owner, someone who’s “job” is to support the band, has made me extremely biased and anything nice I say or write will always sound as if I’m blindly agreeing with everything my favorite band does – cause I’m a fan. However, it’s been pointed out to me by a few of you, that fan reviews have some sort of magic on its own. Of course they’re biased – but it’s the fans who know the band better than any other reviewer – they can compare and contrast easier than them and they have a much clearer understanding of what’s “going on”. So, let me share the next couple of paragraphs with you and let me tell you how I personally feel about ‘Taking One For The Team’.
It has been 5 long years since their last record (‘Get Your Heart On!’) and Simple Plan had to make a decision where to head next in this ever-evolving music scene. Today, as I’m listening to the record again (and again and again), I can honestly say that this is one of the best records this band has ever put out. By going back and adding tracks like ‘Nostalgic’, ‘Farewell’ and “Opinion Overload’ in the fall pop-punk sessions, the band proved that they undeniably belong to the pop-punk scene, which they helped create back in the early 00s. But at the same time, Simple Plan didn’t just stick to the basics. Once again the band dared to expand their sound by adding different styles, such as pop and reggae, much like they did with GYHO. However, even with the addition of these ‘different’ tracks, the album offers a consistent ‘fun and energetic’ theme, which makes you want to keep on dancing and rocking out while you’re on your way to work/school, not caring what other people might think of you – and compared to GYHO, TOFTT is definitely bringing the next level of fun.
Just as the guys predicted, the album can be divided into three different genres/styles – pop-punk, pop and ballads. However some songs can definitely overlap to more categories, which makes it a bit harder to categorize them precisely.
No one can argue that the pop-punk genre is the predominant style of this record. Out of 14 songs, at least half of them could be considered pop-punk/rock/you-name-it, the kind of in-your-face songs with loud guitars and drums that we all know and love when it comes to Simple Plan. This is probably the most amount of pop-punk songs, Simple Plan has had on their albums in a while. Which is also a big reason why many compare this record to something in between SNGA and GYHO – at least style-wise. Without these songs, the record would not be as enjoyable as it is, which makes me want to wholeheartedly thank SP for their decision to go back to the studio in the fall and record some of these tracks.
There is no other song that could have been chosen as a better opener of TOFTT than‘Opinion Overload’. Simple Plan have never been adored by the critics, but the initial reactions to the first released tracks were just plain brutal. They actually made Simple Plan go back to the studio and channel their frustration into this song (and at least one more that made this album). The drums and guitars along with Pierre’s anger-driven vocals create an incredible track that will surely be a favorite live track for many fans. Lyrically, it’s a great big “Fuck you!” to all the haters and nay-sayers who never understood (or never even wanted to understand) what Simple Plan were still doing on this scene. A similar meaning can be found hidden in between the lines of ‘Farewell’ – only directed at someone else. In all honesty, those lyrics have been haunting me ever since SP first released ‘Farewell’ to the public. And I’d lie if I said I didn’t spend that whole evening in tears [I want to go more in depth about this song in my upcoming interview with SP in Prague, so keep checking back for that!].
Among other brilliant pop-punk/rock tracks that can be found on TOFTT are ‘Boom’ ‘Nostalgic’, ‘I Refuse’, ‘P.S. I Hate You’ and even ‘Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching’ could maybe pass in this category, although it is heavily influenced by pop. Pierre’s fast rhyming and overall sound of that song make it another fantastic track to be put on the tour’s setlist. ‘P.S. I Hate You’ (or as some fans have already renamed it: ‘Dear Sophia’) is one of the coolest tracks on the album, which brings a bit of a modern pop-punk All Time Low-esque sound to SP. Last song from this category that I’d like to mention is ‘I Refuse’, which has quickly become one of my favorites on the whole album. Whether it’s for personal reasons, for the heavy sound of all the drums and guitars or for the vocals (and back vocals!), this song just stands out brilliantly. A tiny thing that bothers me is that ‘I Refuse’ is positioned right before ‘I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed’ on the tracklist. While I applaud the band for the tracklist being anything but boring – SP throw in pop-punk songs, pop tracks and ballads almost at random while keeping them sound well together – there is one exception. Putting a light-spirited song such as ‘Bed’ with that bubbly intro right after such a heavy and emotional song like ‘I Refuse’, feels to me as if it diminishes the meaning of the song. It is as if after someone has just poured their heart out to you, they suddenly chuckle and say: “HAHA, JUST KIDDING.”
And that brings us to the pop songs. My personal music taste varies from pop to rap (although my heart will always be made of sweet sweet pop-punk), which is why I usually have no problem accepting the pop-endeavors of my favorite band. However with ‘I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed’ and ‘Singing In The Rain’, my initial reaction was not exactly supportive. While I appreciated them for what they were – decent pop songs – the music struck me as anything but Simple Plan. ‘Bed’ seemed as too much of a trying-too-hard-to-be-like-Maroon-5 song while ‘Rain’ seemed like an attempt at a sequel to Summer Paradise (which, don’t get me wrong is a great summer song, but I wasn’t sure if counting on the fact that “It worked for us once, maybe it will work again” would be the best idea for SP). But here’s the thing: for some completely unknown reason, these songs grew on me after the second listen. With ‘Bed’, the music video helped me a lot to appreciate the song more for its carefree side (not to mention that I really do enjoy Nelly’s verse). And with ‘Rain’, it just clicked after the second listen. I pulled a total 180. The song made me feel so happy! I honestly didn’t know how that happened. Now when I think about the song, I still think of it as a sequel to Summer Paradise, but this time in a good sense.. I can actually see this song doing really well on the radio, and while I do not necessarily like the fact that this is the song that will represent Simple Plan to the “outsiders”, if they like it, I don’t care – and I have a feeling they will.
Now, besides ‘Bed’ and ‘Rain’, I would like to include two more songs into the pop category – and that’s ‘Everything Sucks’ and ‘ ’. ‘ES’ is a song that you could argue doesn’t necessarily have to be just in the pop category and I agree, but there is still an undeniable amount of pop surrounding this track. The song is great – cool tune, the last half of the song (mostly the bridge!!!) is brilliant – my problem with this song are the verses, which feature sometimes a little too juvenile rhymes, such as morning/boring, date/tastes, sunset/like it, which have a certain level of a cringe factor for me. As much as I usually love Pierre’s and Chuck’s song-writing, this isn’t their best work. However the chorus makes up for any awkwardness the verses bring in and as I previously said, the final parts of the song are amazing. Finally… ‘Sad’. I will honestly never understand what created such a negative response to this song when it was first released. I thought the track was dope – catchy, funny lyrics, great melody – everything you’d look for in a Simple Plan track. But somehow, it didn’t do so well with most of the fans, even though I genuinely thought they’d love it. Oh, well..
And finally, if Simple Plan are good at anything besides their pop-punk songs, it’s theballads. They have definitely proven that on TOFTT with songs like ‘Perfectly Perfect’, ‘Problem Child’ and ‘I Dream About You’. I’ve noticed that one of the most overlooked songs on the record by reviewers is ‘Perfectly Perfect’ and I truly don’t understand why. I thought ‘this song will be a bit win with the ladies,’ when I first heard it. Honestly, if a guy plays this song to a girl, she’s pretty much his, I’m telling you. A simple and heartfelt song – just what you’d expect from Simple Plan, except a bit cuter than that. You can just feel the Plain White T’s touches that Tom Higgenson (who co-wrote the song with Pierre and Chuck) put into it. I cannot wait to sing-a-long to this song with thousands of fellow fans. Same thing goes for ‘Problem Child’, which is an absolutely beautiful song, and will surely trigger lots of new SP fan tattoos. One more thing that makes this song stand out – the instrumental part in its middle, featuring Jeff’s brilliant and soft guitar solo. Finally, the last song of the record – ‘I Dream About You’ is one of the most interesting songs Simple Plan have ever created. First time I listened to it, the layers of the song along with Pierre’s vocals and very haunting background literally gave me goose-bumps. It’s also important to note that Juliet’s (deeper) and Pierre’s (higher) vocals compliment each other very well. Altogether the song creates an almost heavenly vibe which would make it an absolutely perfect fit for a soundtrack song. I only wish the instrumental part with strings was a bit longer.
Overall, Simple Plan’s record is everything you’d expect from Simple Plan with a little spray of the unexpected. The SP fans should not be worried about the band exploring new grounds, they will always come back to their pop-punk roots where they seem to feel the most comfortable. The theme of togetherness, team spirit and brotherhood that ‘Taking One For The Team’ offers opens the record by its album cover and closes it with the hidden track after the last song perfectly. Even though the album features more songs than any previous Simple Plan record, when you’re finished listening, it doesn’t even feel like 14 songs. The fun tracks are mixed with the heavier and more serious ones, which together form a fantastic blend of music that’s still very relevant, as well as it offers still very relatable lyrics. This album means the absolute world to me – all the more knowing that I could have lost them during the process of them making it and I am unbelievably grateful they took one for the team and stayed strong together. One thing is clear: the game is won – they are the champions.
Thanks Domi for your review! Check out her site here and follow Simple Plan. cz on social networks here.