Simple Plan makes music for a certain set of fans and rarely tries to broaden the net. Pop punk in general, the type of pabulum done to death by Avril Lavigne and these French Canadian guys, is generally about distilling something decent into its most squelchy elements. The results are clear and flavourless, but in some cases refreshment is possible.
With Simple Plan’s fourth studio record, Get Your Heart On!, there are moments of refreshment to be had but the substance is impossible to locate.
The first thing that many will notice about Get Your Heart On! Is the appearance of a pile of guest stars. K’Naan, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low, and Natasha Bedingfield of “Unwritten” fame all appear to varying degrees of effect.
What’s interesting is that the name on the aforementioned list that shouldn’t work actually works most. Bedingfield’s appearance on “Jet Lag” is the album’s most enjoyable song. Vocalist Pierre Bouvier and Bedingfield trade lines back and forth nicely and the song is quite sweet, amazingly enough. Sure, it’s as clichéd as humanly possible and the lyrics are bland, but the cut is ridiculously catchy and should please fans with its balmy feel. French Canadian listeners should check out a Francophone version of the cut featuring Marie-Mai, by the way.
Also in the “not terrible” category is “Loser of the Year,” another impeccably clichéd piece of work that bounds with catching energy and lunging guitars. It won’t win the band new fans, but it’s a head-nodding tune that isn’t offensive to the ears.
Unfortunately, Simple Plan has to venture into territory that is, to be honest, quite bad. The slower songs, numbers like “This Song Saved My Life” and “Gone Too Soon,” come off excessively maudlin and cheesy. I don’t doubt that these songs have special meaning for listeners and I do know of more than a few listeners who’ve come to some sort of revelation due to Simple Plan songs, but musically they don’t work.
It’s not that emotional songs have no place in pop punk, of course, but I do question their place on a record called Get Your Heart On!. Simple Plan still lacks structure in putting out an album, stuffing mischievous pop punk ditties arbitrarily next to miserable ballads without much worry for how it all fits together.
While I was stunned that this record didn’t make my ears bleed, I wasn’t surprised that these guys still haven’t evolved to the point where an album matters as a whole. This really is a succession of songs, some of which are more effective and fun than others.