Simple Plan – ‘Taking One For The Team’

By Chris Hilson

The release of ‘Taking One For The Team’ ends a five year wait since Simple Plan’s last album, the ultimately forgettable ‘Get Your Heart On’. If you’ve ever been into Simple Plan at any point of their career then you will know exactly what to expect, and song titles such as ‘I Don’t Want To Be Sad’, ‘P.S I Hate You’ and ‘Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching’ reinforce the idea that not much has changed lyrically.

Aside from their slightly more angsty self-titled album of 2008 Simple Plan have never taken themselves too seriously, and ‘Taking One For The Team’ is packed full of the pop-punk riffs, humour, and lovelorn angst that they’ve delivered before. Whilst this approach almost guarantees that ‘Taking One For The Team’ will be lapped up by long-term fans without a second thought, there’s plenty about this album that will frustrate or bewilder pretty much anyone else.

It doesn’t help that the album gets off to an underwhelming start. ‘Opinion Overload’ has got all the key changes, harmonies, and polished riffs that you would expect but offers nothing more, resulting in a listenable but overly safe opening track. Things do improve straight afterwards with ‘Boom’, a fun song with a great chorus that is given depth by brief passages of piano, but such highlights are very few and far between.

Simple Plan have collaborated with some unexpected names in the past, but even so the appearance of Nelly on ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Bed’ is surprising. Sounding like a Maroon 5 b-side, it’s a wasted opportunity to throw a real musical curveball and come up with something unique. However Nelly isn’t the only guest appearance as Juliette Simms, R.City, and Jordan Pundik all pop up to lend some variety. ‘Farewell’, featuring Jordan Pundik, is the best of the collaborations and also one of the best songs on the album. The soaring chorus and crunching riffs show that Simple Plan haven’t lost their talent for writing catchy songs, and the distinctive vocals of Jordan add the dimension and depth that is sorely missing elsewhere. Very much at the opposite end of the scale is ‘Singing In The Rain’, featuring R. City, which is the definition of awful. A grating and contrived faux reggae mess, it can’t end soon enough.

To be honest, Simple Plan were never going to shake things up too much, but ‘Taking One For The Team’ is almost completely stale. Even the fantastic ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Sad’, which sits somewhere between pop-punk and Disney musical, can’t make up for the lack of effort and imagination elsewhere. Playing it safe doesn’t automatically equal dull, nor does being experimental guarantee fantastic results, but hearing a bunch of men who aren’t far off hitting forty whine their way through fourteen tracks of pop-punk cliches like they’re still eighteen is as embarrassing as it boring.

CHRIS HILSON

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