August 20, 2018 Plain White T’s – Parallel Universe (Album Review)
Hey there Delilah, perhaps you remember Plain White T’s? If you do, hey, they return this Friday, August 24, 2018, with Parallel Universe, thanks to Fearless Records.
Illinois quintet Plain White T’s formed in 1997, and what would follow would be one wild and crazy ride! The Grammy Award-nominated, multi-platinum group made their debut in 2000 with Come On Over, but it would be their third full-length, 2005’s All That We Needed and its smash hit single “Hey There Delilah” that made major traction for the talented quintet. Four more albums over the next decade – ranging from 2006’s Every Second Counts to 2015’s American Nights – served to cement Plain White T’s as a solid Alt Rock/Pop Rock outfit.
With countless miles logged in front of endless audiences around the world, Plain White T’s – Vocalist Tom Higgenson, Guitarists Tim Lopez and Dave Tirio, Bassist Mike Retondo, and Drummer De’Mar Hamilton – know a little something about their craft. For album number eight – produced by Matt Squire (Ariana Grande, Panic! At The Disco) – the 14-track Parallel Universe, the boys opt for an obscure journey into another galaxy of sound, an atmospheric otherworld full of heavy electronics, including glitzy synths, and studio effects worthy of one of today’s top Pop divas.
Parallel Universe kicks off with some groovy basslines and the crisp, clean vocals of the sensual, downtempo hip-shaker, the dangerously catchy “Light Up The Room.” Here, you can get your dance on thanks to studio accoutrements in-line with today’s Top 40, and, okay, the lyrics aren’t genius, but the infectiousness is such that it triumphs any shortcomings. Underlying it all is that deeper-something that makes Plain White T’s much more than plain Pop, and its palatable presence still remains. Sadly, they lose sight of this on the ridiculous “Bonnie I Want You.” The titular gal parties a little too hard and this leads to a tendency to have her tits hanging out, but hey, that’s alright, because Higgenson still wants to publicly admit he wants her. Nonetheless, it is all still somehow catchy in that dense sense that almost guarantees to make it a club favorite.
Similarly, island breezes dust the gentle sway of “Call Me,” heavily peppered with studio sound effects to sound like the latest from Katy Perry or Bebe Rexha. Though they do go for more of an alt-rocker with the steady beat of “Top Of The World.” Meanwhile, admittedly, the gently undulating love song “Bury Me” is catchy, for sure, as is “Your Body,” a rather simple ode to a beloved body.
The the bass-heavy, fat end of the Disco-dusted “Sick Of Love” goes for sensual sonics despite its thumbing its nose at the pitfalls of love. For the next track, the dance-y thump expresses that, when you don’t want anyone else, you should accept “No Imitations.” Next, they keep it on the down-tempo for the glittering sultriness of “Low,” an unwitting yet catchy celebration of feeling anything but high.
Thanks to its noteworthy synth work, pop-rocker “Lying About Me And You” has an underlying 1980s influence that leaves it feeling like something that might have scored Sixteen Candles back in the day. They continue with the more Rock-oriented approach on the electronically-twinkling “I Should Be Dead Right Now,” while the emphatic thump of “Lips” is a bittersweet plea to a former lover, an enticement for her to return to the tour bus. The Spanish-flavored hip-sway of “No Tears” invites us to accept that which we cannot change and shed no tears over a hurtful lover, and, in the end, they go for a funky toe-tapper with “End Of The World,” a desperate search for love that has a serious 1970s influence.
On Parallel Universe, Plain White T’s lead with their best foot forward, that is, “Light Up The Room.” What follows after is an exercise in needless studio wizardry and a serious ode to chasing trends. What is striking is that Plain White T’s are an established act with proven talents, so why the superfluous sound effects heavily layered into the mix and the silly lyrics (“Bonnie I Want You,” “Call Me,” “Your Body”)?
That all said, Parallel Universe is not a bad collection, but it is also not a career-defining addition to the band’s catalogue. In short, it is not a complete misfire, but it is certainly a bizarre left-step away from the path. For this reason, fans are likely to be divided on whether or not they want to explore this synthetically glitzy, largely mindless but certainly catchy universe. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Plain White T’s Parallel Universe 3 of 5 stars.