Plain White T's

American Nights

Written by: HES on 14/07/2015 11:19:12

I thought I knew only of Plain White T's by name, but it turns out they were the masterminds behind the gaffer tape sticky "Hey There Delilah" that bothered all of our ear tunnels some summer in the 2000-somethings. Their latest album "American Nights" has a pretty well chosen title, but not for any good reason. Allow me to take you through the patchwork quilt that is "American Nights", where the band achieves the musical equivalent of one of those restaurants with a combined pizza, sushi, Chinese and Indian buffet, slowly being held hot underneath fly-repelling lights. None of the dishes are original or good, but for a small dime you can get all you can eat. You try it once, then never go back.

First dish in the buffet: "Dance Off Time" is an unoriginal attempt at an uplifting folk song in the style of Mumford & Sons or Lumineers, but with neither instrumental quirkiness or lyrical inspiration. "You Belong" is a weirdly salsa-themed pop song, sounding as uninspired as the rest of the album just with a touch of classic trot in the rhythm section, that never really peaks or influences anything else. "Love Again" is a big band styled, relaxed vamp but whatever interest is piqued by the decent sounding horns is botched by lyrics like: "All my troubles are gone now I have found love again". So deep. So profound. Good thing teenage girls are listening to this inspiring way of fixing one’s personal problems.

Are we done adding bullets to the menu card yet? Why would we? So many things to try out and then leave half-eaten on the plate! "Pause" hits some of the same notes as Imagine Dragons with tribal drums and "oh oh"-choirs. To some extent it is working, but where Imagine Dragons actually master the uplifting, motivational rock, Plain White T’s demonstrate that their rhyming barely passes for a 5-year-old's: “Time goes by too fast. Gotta try to make it all last. Gotta try to make my life better. Try to slow down and keep it all together. Take it day by day. Find myself along the way”.

With "Heavy Rotation" the band tries on 80's rock so bombastic and vulgar it is hard to even listen to. "Stay" is a complete clone of a funky Maroon 5 ballad. But "One Day You'll Love Me" takes the prize for the record's worst track with an off-beat Police-like verse and helpless lyrics about having found too young a lover with lyrics like "It doesn't matter if you love me, I'm gonna love you anyway. It doesn't matter how you feel right now, 'cause someday you're gonna love me" - cringe!

But it's not all bad. Some of it is just mediocre: The title track of the record has a bit of nerve and uplifting lyrics about changing the world. The construction is classic verse, bridge, chorus, repeat and then another "oh oh"-choir that actually works this time. But the track still reminds me slightly of FUN.'s mega-hit "Some Nights". "Never Working" is a more introvert and low-key song with a bit of self-reflective lyrics and a bassline I simply can't bring myself to hate. But does it not also sound a bit too inspired by Jimmy Eat World?

Plain White T's open themselves to these suspicions because of the more blatant borrowing on the album. Yet imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right? I guess this album is one long compliment then. The primary problem with all the imitation is that it makes for an album that has no direction, seems arbitrarily thrown together, and worst of all: It makes Plain White T's look like a band that has no musical ambitions themselves. Nowhere on the album do I hear anything, be it lyrical, melodic or compositional, that makes this band stand out. I can’t describe the “Plain White T’s sound”, because there is no overall line, inspiration or style.


Download: Never Working, American Nights
For The Fans Of: The Script, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5

Release date 31.03.2015

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