Nearly 20 years after I first heard their debut album “No Pads, No Helmets….Just Balls”, and had it on high rotation in my multi-CD stacker, Simple Plan has returned with their 6th Studio album.
Their first independent release “Harder Than It Looks” produces that well-known Simple Plan sound, but like red wine, has matured in flavor over the years.
The album opens with a piano riff, which makes you wonder what’s in store, but it doesn’t take long before the signature driving guitars kick in, soon after Pierre Bouvier’s distinctive and instantly recognisable voice joins in, and you know you’re in the land of Simple Plan.
“Wake Me Up (When This Nightmare’s Over)” has some poignant lyrics about the world’s current situation and the band has used this to raise funds for the UNICEF Ukraine Emergency appeal and has also used a Ukrainian director and actors in the video clip to further push the emotion of this song.
“Ruin My Life” is a typical Simple Plan. Great dynamics with the song continuing to build throughout, guitar riffs, harmonized vocals, and of course in true Simple Plan, a collaboration. This time featuring Deryck Whibley from fellow Canadian Rockers Sum-41. However, to me, this feature was a little bit lacking only appearing for a verse and I felt they could have done a little more with it. He may have just been added as some additional promotion to the current blame Canada Tour across America with Sum-41. No detriment to the song as it would stand on its own with or without Deryck.
“The Antidote” the story of young love as the music video entails, or just a song about someone people can rely on, starts some of the journeys of a modern Simple Plan. Combining their pop-punk with a little bit more of a modern rock spin. The band had this to say about this track.
“The song is a throwback to our classic Simple Plan sound, but with a modern twist. It has all the elements our fans have come to love and expect from our band: a big, energetic chorus and honest and heartfelt lyrics that deal with life and the struggles we all face. It feels like the perfect starting point and a great preview of what’s to come on the album”
“Million pictures of You” & “Congratulations”, the latest singles off the album continue in the sound direction of “Jetlag” with their upbeat and even happy pop-punk anthems. I would even throw “Slow-Motion” the second last track on the album into this category.
“Anxiety” is where the album changes and produces a track that could be by many other modern pop artists. The lyrics are true to form providing something, as Simple Plan lyrics often do, that many fans could relate to and the reason why many of us started and continued to listen to Simple Plan across the last two decades.
Providing riffs that could be used across many action/sports tv shows not forgetting to mention recaps of the season, “Iconic” provides another modern take on the Simple Plan sound. Brass grooves combined with the marching band feel provide an Anthem that drives you on just to prove people wrong and become an “Iconic” legend.
“Best Day Of My Life” is just a throwback to old-school Simple Plan. Energetic, fast, heavy showing they can still rock it as they used to.
The final track “Two” gives you all the feels of childhood if you grew up in a split family. If you were writing a musical just using Simple Plan songs this would pair perfectly with their Symbolic hit “Perfect”.
Overall Simple Plan continues to produce great music, keeping plenty of their original sound but further enhancing their sound and developing as an artist.
“Harder Than It Looks” doesn’t provide a single stand-out track to me that I would just continue to play on repeat, but on the other hand, it provides a fantastic album that I would be more than happy to listen to the whole thing on repeat. In fact, the more you listen to it the catchier it becomes, and you will be singing along by the second or third time.
If you have been a fan from the start, you won’t be let down.
My only disappointment in the album to me, in my opinion, is it is a couple of songs short, and I would love it to have one like the acoustic ballad “Perfectly Perfect” as they also do the acoustic style so well.
A score of 8/10 for me, but that good easily go up with a few more listens, or maybe some bonus points if they bring their tour Down Under.