CD Review: The Plain White T's "Wonders Of The Younger"

For every generation, musically speaking, there seems to be a band whose somewhat one-dimensional sound makes them the sort of band you either love, or hate with a passion. In the 90's, it was Cake (who used to annoy the heck out of me, but who I now love, for the most part). In the 2000's, it was Train (who I still completely loathe for many musical transgressions, the least of which was stealing a song from a band that had opened for them).

For this decade, the band best fitting this description seems to be Lombard, Illinois' very own Plain White T's, whose latest album, Wonder Of The Younger, just hit store shelves this week. Best known for their #1 smash hit "Hey There Delilah" and Top 40 single "1, 2, 3, 4" (which single-handedly put Chicago monument "The Bean" on the map), the band wholeheartedly approach their sixth studio album with absolutely no intent of tweeking the formula that has made them one of the most popular US bands of the past few years.

Of course, this refusal to "rock the boat", so to speak, can be viewed in one of two ways; 1) the band's utter predictability is exactly what makes them an easy band to dislike, or 2) this is a band smart enough to know that once you establish a brand, you don't go changing things. Your opinion of the band going in will no doubt pre-determine which side of the fence you fall on. Let's face it, preconceptions are unavoidable in such cases as this, but, having spent quite a bit of time with this album, I can safely say that my opinion of the band, which was not exactly glowing a week or two go, has improved quite a bit based on this new record.

Now, don't get me wrong, the band doesn't reinvent the wheel, or even contemplate such a thing. Nope, "Wonders Of The Younger" is an album by a band that is employing much the same template they've used on their last two records, but the difference-maker is that the band has never sounded more confident. I liken this confidence to that of the Ramones, who, by their third album "Rocket To Russia", had also perfected their formula and were now firing on all cylinders. Of course, by their sixth album, they'd begun messing with the formula and so began a lengthy string of albums with diminishing returns.

Now, if this were a regular record review, I'd have name-checked a couple stand-out songs by now, and used some cool words from my rock journalist's thesaurus - such as "plaintive", "cathartic", and "introspective", all of which apply quite heavily to this album - but I'll spare you that nonsense and simply state for the record that if you love melody...lots and lots of melody...and have a thing for mid-tempo love songs full of lush vocal harmonies, acoustic arrangements, and unabashedly flowery/slyly cinematic lyrics, this album has your name written all over it.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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