Shortcut – Plain White T’s

By Matt Zakosek

Fans of generic pop-punk will find plenty to embrace in All That We Needed, the latest CD from Chicago boys the Plain White T’s. The disc begins promisingly enough with the title song, then works its way through 12 catchy—if forgettable—similar-sounding tracks. The only exception is “What More Do You Want?,” which has a riff weirdly reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” (The King of Pop could probably sue, but he’s spent enough time in courtrooms this year already.)

A few stand-outs are “Breakdown” and “Lazy Day Afternoon,” but even they are marred by unmemorable lyrics. The publicist for the Plain White T’s loves to tout their “socially conscious” subject matter, but just because a few songs mention suicide doesn’t mean they’re particularly deep. That’s akin to praising Art Alexakis for that cheesy Everclear song “Father of Mine.”

In fact, the main problem with the Plain White T’s is embedded in those very lyrics. “Got nothing to say anymore/ Originality went out that door,” lead singer Tom Higgenson croons in “Sad Story.” Oh, really? For a band that thanks Lucky Boys Confusion, Yellowcard, and Sum 41 in the liner notes, that’s not at all surprising. The Plain White T’s aren’t an unwelcome addition to the pop-punk world, but there’s nothing to distinguish them from the contemporary bands they claim as influences.

That said, I can see myself listening to this CD sometime in the future. I’ll save Green Day’s far superior American Idiot for when I’m feeling pensive, but the 13 tracks on All That We Needed make for upbeat background music, perfect stuff to listen to when you’re getting ready for a party. The Plain White T’s won’t rock your world, but they’re serviceable, pleasant, and nondescript—kinda like their namesake.