Hands up, who’s sick of debating what is or isn’t “punk”? If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already made up your mind about Simple Plan. But maybe it’s time to forget what you know, because Simple Plan couldn’t care less about people’s opinions of them. Simple Plan have spent the last year channeling their energy, positivity and, yes, sometimes frustration, into their music. And no matter how you want to label their music, the 11 songs on the band’s highley anticipated second album, Still Not Getting Any… proves that SP are not a punk band, a pop band, a rock band or whatever label you can come up with… they are just a great band… a band that strives to write great songs and put on a hell of a show!
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Admittedly, a lot has happened since the Montreal, Canada band—vocalist Pierre Bouvier, drummer Chuck Comeau, bassist David Desrosiers and guitarists Sebastien Lefebvre and Jeff Stinco—released No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls… in the spring of 2002. Aside from selling a couple of million albums, the group have shared the stage with everyone from Rancid to Aerosmith; made appearances on the Vans Warped Tour for three years running (two as Headliners), and been nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards—not bad for five kids who used to tour in their parents’ station wagon.
“Songs about cars and partying do nothing for me,” explains Comeau. “I like songs where I listen and it makes me shiver.” That said, you may want to don a parka while listening to Still Not Getting Any…, because it’s packed with shiver-worthy moments: “Crazy,” chronicles the insecurities each of us go through on a daily basis (yes, even if you’re a rock star), while “Perfect World,” struggles to make sense out of loss. However, for a while, it looked like these songs would never come together.
“For us songwriting is a craft we really have to work hard at,” admits Comeau. After the band wrapped their first U.S. headlining tour with MxPx last February, Comeau and Bouvier spent three months in Vancouver writing every single day for the new album, throwing away more ideas than they came away with. “At first we had trouble coming up with stuff we loved, so we just kept writing and writing… never giving up. After months of doing this and pushing each other, it just came together,“ Bouvier explains. ‘Perfect World’ was one of the first good songs that we got, and from there the songs just started coming out of us like a waterfall.”
When it came time to record, the band enlisted famed producer Bob Rock (the man behind some of Metallica’s, Mötley Crüe’s and Bon Jovi’s biggest records). The vision behind Still Not Getting Any… was simple… the band would not restrict themselves to the punk genre, which ironically seems to have more rules than one can keep track of these days.
“I think on the first record we just wanted to write a pure pop-punk record, and on this one we didn’t care—we just wanted to write good songs,” explains Comeau. Bouvier has a fitting analogy for the band’s approach: “As an artist, why limit yourself to just doing certain things?” he asks aloud. “It’s like being a painter; do you decide to only use seven or eight colors, or blend the colors together and make the most beautiful painting possible. From the deeply personal story behind the album’s lead single “Welcome To My Life” to the insanely exhilarating guitar solo on “Promise”, this illustrates the band’s approach to songwriting.
Granted, Still Not Getting Any… isn’t going to be in the trip-hop section of any record store, but there are some surprises, be it the subtle but powerful interludes in “Shut Up”, the cool and yet intricate drum loop on “Perfect World”, the beautiful string section and touching lyrics you can hear on “Untitled”, or the epic string arrangement on “One.” “Thank You” recalls the early 90’s melodic punk bands who influenced Comeau and Bouvier’s old hardcore band, Reset.
The record is a bit different from the first one, but it’s still us,” Lefebvre is quick to point out. However, although Simple Plan are open to experimenting with the formula that made them famous, their biggest concern is not letting down their fans, because, that’s who this album is for. “The connection between us and our fans is the most important thing we have,” explains Desrosiers. “They’ll ultimately be the ones who make or break our album, not some music critic who’s already made his or her mind up about us,” Stinco adds. “Without them, I would probably be working a nine-to-five job that I hate.”
In the end, the band speak best though their lyrics, and during “Shut Up” when Bouvier sings, “Nothing you say today will ever bring me down,” it’s not calculated rebellion—it’s the truth. So, whose side are you on?
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