CD Review: Plain White T’s prove simple can be effective

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Every Second Counts, the latest release from the Plain White T’s, lives up to its title.

For this, their Hollywood Records debut, The T’s abandoned the pop-tinged punk stylings that made them a popular part of the Chicago suburbs scene for the last eight years, and instead chose to focus on a more conventional pop sound. The result—much to the surprise of punk purists—is the band’s most complete record to date.

The lead single, “Hate (I Really Don’t Like You),” is one of the catchiest songs of the year, and has garnered consistent airplay on major city radio stations across the country. Its success is due partly to lyrics that are angry—yet sugar-coated to be easily swallowed—and a hook that will be left on repeat in your brain, even after only one listen.

However, what’s most interesting about Every Second Counts is the way the T’s accomplish this feat. While many bands that jump to a major label attempt to fill their record with high-priced production and studio effects, the Windy City quintet instead scaled back production and focused on simple, yet strong, writing and musicianship.

Each of the dozen tracks relies on the formula that energy plus sincerity equals success. As a result, the finished product is proof that simple can be effective. If anything, it has put the band in a position to widen their appeal to include fans of more mainstream rock acts as well as parents of those young fans.

Highlights on Every Second Counts are numerous and include the opening track “Our Time Now,” the aforementioned “Hate” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Dial Drunk,” an homage to late night, alcohol-induced cell phone conversations. Tucked away in the center of the record is “Making A Memory,” an electro-acoustic ballad that would have been as comfortable in junior high dance halls 20 years ago as it will be today.

Every Second Counts is a welcome addition to a strong Plain White T’s back catalog primarily filled with songs about hurt feelings, bruised egos and broken hearts. And while some longtime fans may find fault with their swing to the poppier side of life, it is a change that shows maturity and progression. After all, even the most badly broken hearts have to mend eventually.

From the Nov. 29 – Dec. 5, 2006, issue

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