Review Summary: canadian weekend, pt 2: haunted by the ghost of a blue past
Unsurprisingly, my taste in music as a twelve year old was questionable at best: my MP3 player was loaded with nothing but the very best of Pearl Jam, Fleetwood Mac and Simple Plan. Sure, those first two bands might be slightly
better than the latter, but I’m willing to die a lonely death on the hill that Simple Plan have released some excellent songs. I won’t list all, eh, five of them, but ‘Outta My System’ is an excellently dumb party anthem, and I’d be lying if I said that ‘Holding On’s magnificent riff didn’t accompany me on many sad teenage nights. Anyway: six years after the band’s truly awful exploration of all things millenial pop on Taking One for the Team
, the incredibly mature Canadians have returned. Their new album is called Harder Than It Looks
Let’s start with the bad: Simple Plan are still absolutely horrendous at incorporating elements of post-2005 pop. ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Iconic’ feature dreadfully repetitive choruses, painfully misplaced horns, and not a single hint of energy or authenticity. While they might be slightly less offensive than previous smash hits such as ‘I Don’t Wanna Go to Bed (feat. Nelly)’ or ‘Can’t Keep My Hands off You (feat. Rivers Cuomo)’, Harder Than It Looks
’ lowlights are painfully easy to identify. Simultaneously, they do provide a(n unenjoyable) break from the record’s monotony of vaguely competent pop rock: pretty much every single other track fails to stand out from the pack. This album is Simple Plan Simple-Planning
on autopilot: there’s an abundance of overly simplistic yet catchy riffs, big-capital-b choruses, and some of the whiniest vocals you’ll hear all year.
Yet, Simple Plan on autopilot is much better than Simple Plan attempting to achieve literally anything else. ‘Wake Me Up (When This Nightmare’s Over)’ presents a pleasantly nostalgic riff; ‘Million Pictures of You’ is an even more explicitly nostalgic collection of self-references; ‘The Antidote’ boasts an energetically memorable chorus without incorporating too many lyrical cringés. At the same time, Harder Than It Looks
mostly seems to function as a reminder for old fans that the band can still craft some enjoyable hooks. There’s nothing to the album outside of this; there’s no element to draw in new listeners or keep the old ones coming back. It just kind of exists. Simple Plan just kind of exist, but then again, so do I.