Anyone who knows me even slightly will know that I am 100% a pop-punk kid at heart. It’s a product of my upbringing. I was really young when bands like Blink-182 were dominating the mainstream radio, and as I grew up Green Day released American Idiot, Fall Out Boy formed and became superstars and a whole new wave of pop-punk bands like All Time Low came along. So I love the sounds of that era from the turn of the century without even a hint of irony. But as much as I will forever love pop-punk, even when I was younger I thought Simple Plan were absolute garbage, and they continue to prove me right.
Subtlety isn’t a work that has ever existed in this band’s lexicon. Their music has always been the most trite, straightforward, dull, uninspired pop-punk around, going all the way back to their early days. Their version of a love song, ‘Addicted’, featured the line “I’m a dick/I’m a dick/I’m addicted to you”, because nothing says ‘heartfelt declaration of love’ like knob jokes. We’ve all struggled with the prospect of growing older and being forced out into the big bad world and taking on responsibilities, but how did Simple Plan deal with it? By writing the song ‘I’m Just A Kid’, of which the oh-so-deep chorus reads ‘I’m just a kid/And life is a nightmare’. Rebelling against authority and conformity was a big theme of pop-punk, as anyone who’s ever heard Sum 41’s ‘Fat Lip’ knows, but Simple Plan’s attempt at it, ‘Shut Up’ is even less subtle than that attempt with the chorus “Shut up/Shut up/Shut up/Don’t wanna hear it”. And when My Chemical Romance hit it big and emo-punk was the next big thing, what was Simple Plan’s contribution? The utterly execrable ‘Untitled’, with its disgustingly whiny chorus of “HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO MEEEEE”, which sounds like it was written by a musician parodying emo songs instead of being an honest attempt at one.
What I’m saying is, sucking really really obviously isn’t a new concept for Simple Plan, and a look at Taking One For The Team‘s track listing tells you all you need to know. ‘Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching’, ‘Everything Sucks’, ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Bed’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Sad’ and ‘PS. I Hate You’ are standout titles. These are song being written and performed by men in their mid fucking thirties. Simple Plan have been a band for nearly 20 years. And they’re still writing songs with titles that would embarrass a 15 year-old with a Tumblr dedicated to their angsty poetry. Really, Simple Plan, you’re 35 year-old men and you’re honestly putting out songs titled ‘I Don’t Want to Go To Bed’? That is absolutely embarrassing. I’m humiliated for you. How can you look at this tracklist, and the subjects of those songs, and high-five each other and go “Yes, this is the record we, as grown-ass men, want to make”? This hasn’t happened to your contemporaries. New Found Glory put out an album in 2014 that keeps the sound of the early Noughties alive while still having mature themes and lyrics. Blink-182 started their career with songs named ‘I Wanna Fuck A Dog In The Ass’ and even they matured significantly with their self-titled nearly 10 years ago. Why are you, as adults, writing songs like ‘PS. I Hate You’?
The content of the songs is just as awful as the titles. There’s absolutely nothing interesting going on anywhere on the album. There are zero good instrumentals, no good riffs, a dearth of catchy hooks and it’s just a stodgy, boring slog to get through. I saw the lead single ‘Boom’ on Kerrang before the album launched and you know the most interesting thing about it? The warehouse they filmed the video in! I had completely tuned out of the music because it was so dull and was instead thinking “That LED-covered warehouse sure looks like a cool place to throw a party, shame it’s wasted on this band”. The main hook of ‘Boom’ is one of the laziest pieces of writing I’ve ever heard, and it goes like this: “BOOM!/Ba-ba-ba ba ba-ba-ba/BOOM!” That’s not a vocal hook, that’s something a five-year old repeats incessantly after he eats too many blue Smarties and gets a sugar high. ‘Perfectly Perfect’ is utterly embarrassing too, being an entry into the ‘you don’t know how pretty you are’ category of love songs. You know ‘Just The Way You Are’ by Bruno Mars, or One Direction‘s ‘You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful’? ‘Perfectly Perfect’ is just that, stripped of anything resembling listenability, catchiness or a good idea. When I’m unfavourably comparing you to One Direction, it’s time to hang it up.
There’s nothing good on here. There’s no reason to listen to this album. When you’ve got older bands like New Found Glory still killing it, Blink-182 working on new material after kicking out The Least Talented One, All Time Low releasing a decent album last year, State Champs continuing to be the best new band in the scene and so much other good pop-punk you could be listening to, why would you ever waste an ounce of your time listening to 35 year-old men sing songs called ‘Everything Sucks’? Taking One For The Team is an apt title – it’s a highly unpleasant experience that one person has to suffer through for the good of the many so that no-one else has to. For you guys, I am the person suffering. I’m 100% a piece of pop-punk trash and even I find this record completely unlistenable. It’s lazy, shallow and utterly devoid of anything resembling talent, and I doubt even a thirteen-year old version of me could have fun listening to this. Zero stars, F-minus, 0/10, two thumbs down. Do not inflict this atrocity on yourself.