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Plants and Animals – La La Land

on April 16, 2010, 8:00am
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For me, it was perfect timing that CoS posted the 13 Best Canadian Indie bands List this week. A surprisingly high percentage of the bands mentioned have albums coming out in the months ahead, including The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, Wolf Parade, and Stars. Beating them all to the punchbowl and sure to reap from the massive hype this feature has likely stirred is Plants and Animals. Though not one of the top 13, the young group had two shout-outs in the comment field, declaring them worthy of Canadian rock immortality. I don’t get it. Unless they are judging the band solely on the first song from their debut Park Avenue, I see nothing in the recorded music of Plants and Animals that would warrant placement on the best of anything. On their new album La La Land, the Montreal-based three-piece commit even a greater sin than falling victim to the sophomore slump and creating a poor second album; they made a bore of a record that made you forget the first one even exists.

Let me clarify, La La Land is not a horrible album. A few complete stinkers aside, most of the songs stay in the listenable but forgettable realm. But the bad ones do tilt the graces away from giving the mundane numbers the benefit of the doubt. Basically, Plants and Animals should not go up-tempo. “The Mama Papa” tries to be a fun rocker, but with lyrics that are distractingly dumb, a unforgivable moment that features one of those Ferris Bueller chick-a-chicha’s, and an overall sound that is a country off and 40 years late, the song thuds like a body rolling down stairs. But it nowhere nears the realm of “American Idol”, one of the worst songs I have heard in a long time. Keep in mind that they are not American (maybe that is the funny irony? haha?), but do you really think anyone wants to sing along to a chorus that should have been written for Kid Rock?

The self describe “post-classic rock band” never quite found their identity on Parc Avenue, seemingly jumbling influences as varied as Queen and The Allman Brothers Band and neglecting the bridge between then and now. If you think about it, post-classic rock would have been punk, right? And a band based on the premise that punk never existed could actually be interesting, if only the songs were there to support it. Opener “Tom Cruz” never takes off with a guitar riff that screams career in decline, not second album. “Swinging Bells” is better, but when the song is about to take off, it does – and becomes “American Idol”. One of the albums best songs, “Undone Melody” reaches the crescendo promised by its slow build and it sounds lovely, until you realize it is strikingly similar to “Do You Hear What I Hear”, the Christmas song from Gremlins. And these are the memorable songs. “Kon Tiki” and “Fake It” are one note hippie jams that try to stretch a lack of ideas as far as they can. Ultimately, Plants and Animals seem even farther from defining their sound, seeming content to provide mediocre jam rock that a few randoms will eat up.

The albums highlights, the sprawling “Game Shows” and the relatively satisfying “Jeans Jeans Jeans” do show a band with expert chops and a remarkable ability to make their three-piece sound like eight.  But, these are not the climaxes they should be aiming for at this point in their career and they come nowhere near the giddy joy that “Bye Bye” provided. These are songs you could make excuses for if one of your favorite bands released them late into their career, but with bands like Yeasayer and Blitzen Trapper putting true spins on the classic rock aesthetic, there is no need to throw Plants and Animals a bone, unless, maybe, you are a Canadian looking for the next big thing from your homeland. But to that I would just give you last year’s Japandroids record and tell you to search no further. And get this, it’s called Post-Nothing.

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