Album Review: Simple Plan - 'Taking One For The Team'

15 February 2016 | 10:26 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

This album sounds exactly how you expect it to.

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Howard Benson, the man behind the board for My Chemical Romance’s ‘Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge’ among other legendary albums, produced Simple Plan’s ‘Taking One For The Team’. Remember that so when we tell you expectations of the outfit’s fifth studio album are high you know it’s a fact, not an opinion.

Needless to say, once you’ve given the album but one spin, you'll realise that Simple Plan sound, musically, like they haven’t really made too much difference to how they do things. Whether the bar of your standards is set higher or lower will determine how you feel about that assertion. The guitars are pop punk, the vocals are pop, and the themes are, as they say, ‘same thing, different day’. Comparing this release to Simple Plan’s last full-length would be like differentiating bluey-green and teal.

It’s not like the themes are necessarily bad. The whole album pushes positivity in a way that represents that Simple Plan are doing this not just for themselves but for their fans and frankly, anyone going through a tough time. ‘Opinion Overload’ neatly launches the record with a middle finger mentality, standard in terms of its structure but reinforcing an empowering attitude. ‘I Refuse’ is similarly empowering, using gang vocals to create a community vibe and to encourage strength in tough times: “I refuse to keep on suffering quietly”. Even the almost ska ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Sad’ uses the contradictory device of sad lyrics paired with sunshine instrumentals to bring light to the dark.

There’s also a prevalent romantic subject on the LP, with cutesy cutesy tracks like ‘Boom!’, which has a country chorus catchier than a contagious disease, and ‘Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching’, which is slightly cringeworthy and should be included on a rom-com soundtrack. ‘Singing In The Rain’ is poppier still, playing out like it was written for the radio and featuring R. City so it sounds like it came from a pop rock goes reggae compilation. Another unusual guest on the album is Nelly, who features on fun/funky, Maroon 5-esque ‘I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed’.

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What goes up must come down, so the flipside to smiley relationship tunes are slightly angsty dissatisfaction tunes like ‘P.S. I Hate You’. The reason that this review is touching so heavily on themes is because they’re basically the only thing to talk about in terms of defining the album differently than Simple Plan’s prior releases, but unfortunately, there is a lacking resonance created by the cringe factor on the LP. The more heartfelt ‘Problem Child’, and more complex duet ‘I Dream About You’, which features Automatic Loveletter’s Juliet Simms, redeem some of that connection, but ultimately, the majority of ‘Taking One For The Team’ falls short of meeting up to its tear-inducing predecessors that make up Simple Plan’s discography.

Despite its lack of lyrical substance, this is a solid release from an instrumentally excellent band, even if their instrumental talent isn’t utilised for anything overly dynamic or exciting at this point in their career. The future for Simple Plan, based on this record, is going to be what it should be: it will sell enough, they’ll keep touring and fans will keep showing up, whether it’s because they liked that one song they heard on the radio or because they remember being 14 and jamming out to ‘I’m Just A Kid’.  Either way, Simple Plan haven’t given us anything bad, they just haven’t given us much that’s memorable.

1. Opinion Overload

2. Boom!

3. Kiss Me Like Nobody's Watching

4. Farewell featuring Jordan Pundik

5. Singing In The Rain featuring R. City

6. Everything Sucks

7. I Refuse

8. I Don't Wanna Go To Bed featuring Nelly

9. Nostalgic

10. Perfectly Perfect

11. I Don't Wanna Be Sad

12. P.S. I Hate You

13. Problem Child

14. I Dream About You featuring Juliet Simms