Album Review :
Mxpx - Plans Within Plans

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Band: Mxpx

Album: Plans Within Plans

Label: Rock City Recordings

Release Date: April 3rd 2012

Reviewed by: Brandon Jones

It’s tough for me to put into words what this band’s music has meant to me over the years. I practically grew up with them in high school. I started listening to the band with Pokinatcha when some random guy in a Christian bookstore that I was visiting, told me to listen to it and that it sounded similar to Green Day back in 1994. Being in high school at that time period, everyone was all about Green Day so anything similar to that was a plus. From the first time listening to Pokinatcha and each subsequent release after, I knew there was something special about these Bremerton natives that would captivate not only my attention, but the attention and admiration of a whole new generation of music fan out there. I went from seeing them perform here in So. Cal. at sweaty Church basements (I’m looking at you Mission Hills) to huge Church sanctuaries (anyone remember Walker Hall?), and finally to the club and festival circuit. Each time was an entirely different experience yet something remained the same, which is the band’s penchant for writing quick up tempo punk rock songs filled to the brim with heart on the sleeve sensibility and a love for questioning those around us. Sure the band had that “Christian” beginning like a lot of the bands we follow here on IVM but that never stopped them from being true to themselves and rising above the noise. This my friends is Plans Within Plans.

Plans Within Plans begins with the quick beat, signature sound of Mxpx in the song “Aces Up”. It’s got that fast beat that Mxpx played so solidly on earlier releases like Life in General, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo, and Ever Passing Moment. Great double layered backing vocals by Mike that comes together in the typical Mxpx harmony.

“The youngest, brightest minds can’t figure out the cause of our incurable unhappiness and all our flaws Our mass has reached past critical to obvious. I beg you I beseech you but I can’t seem to reach you, no Don’t give up on us Stand and Fight as one….”

“Screw Loose” is a 1 minute 7 sec fast and furious punk rock track. Not my favorite but I dig the guitar solos. It makes you want to throw something and smash stuff against a wall, literally!

“Nothing Left” is the next song and it continues the fast quick beats and catchy chorus by Mike. This is a song for the ages, a song to remember the memories and not give up on hopes.

“We’re all a little messed up in our own ways, and we always will be marking days on prison walls Every time you think that maybe there’s a chance for redemption Don’t hold tight onto your breath before you know there’s nothing left There’s nothing left in your memories that has a thing to do with me or where I’ve been all these years…”

“The Times” is track 4 and begins with a sweet bass solo and continues through the song with the added crunchy melodic punk guitars of Tom. It’s a bit slower than the prior songs but still a solid melodic punk tune. I dig this one. It’s a song about celebrating life and enjoying each moment. I like the “wah wah” sound in the guitars during the slow part.

“The questions are many , the answers are few. But history has taught us, to keep playing through. I ain’t got time to wait on a sign. I said I ain’t got much to put down this time. I Can’t get enough to hold down the line. I don’t need to read the stars to make them shine…”

“In the Past”, track 5, is up next and is yet again a fast and furious melodic punk song that the band has a knack for writing. This song makes you want to run around your room smashing stuff.

“I’m one of the downcast and I don’t want this to last. It’s in the past. There’s comfort in the knowledge I have reconciled. Keeping account of briefs that I have filed. I’m one of the downcast and I don’t want this to last. It’s in the past.”

“Best of Times” comes up next. A solid song drenched in melodramatic melodies and backing vocals that add the special little touch. A song about growing up and holding on to those “Best of Times”.

..”The World has changed outside of my window. What will we be, where did we go? I sat there in silence. All those memories crossed my mind. I love life now but those were the best of times. Do you remember? Do you remember? The summer sky in July. Do you remember? Do you remember The summers flying by. No summer job, no transportation. Crashing parties, no invitation. Hitching rides and going nowhere. Sneaking in to the county fair. I’m looking forward to better days. I n modern times with a whole new face. Cause we’re growing up and all that it takes is looking forward to better days…”

“Stay on Your Feet” is the next song and it’s one of my favorites on the album. More harmonies and fast beats. Such a great song and I am digging the backing vocals. Reminds me of why this band remains at legendary status. It’s a positive song about letting go. Letting go of the pain and hurt, of staying on your feet.

…”leave all your worries behind you and let the good times return. You can have all of your dreams now and get what you deserve. You’ll take the twists You’ll take the turns, you’ll make mistakes but eventually learn. This life is bitter but also sweet. The ride gets rough girl, stay on your feet. Stay on your feet take it as it comes but don’t retreat. Stay on your feet…..”

“Lucky Guy” is a cool song about being loved by your mate for who you are. I suppose it’s written from Mike’s perspective about his wife, who loves him for the punk rocker that he is. I relate to this song.

“I don’t have a PHD but she still loves me. We don’t always agree, but she still loves me. It took a lot of sleepless nights. It took a lot of doubtful days. I may lose a lot of fights, but in the end I’ll win her praise. I’m not so beautiful but she still loves me…”

“Far Away” is up next and sort of has that Bad Religion vibe. Filled with guitar solos and fast beats. There is even a break down mid song that makes it that much cooler. This song is great. It’s also the lead-off single/video from the album. You’re never too far way to see your dreams materialize and become your reality. Don’t back down.

“Would you please promise me, you’ll come back to stay. Before you’re too far away. There’s a time in every person’s life. You think you’ve got it figured like three, four, five. But now the city’s burning down. To the sea or higher ground. But the sea is too far away, higher grounds far away. Would you please promise me, you’ll come back to stay before you’re too far away. When the sea rises up to swallow you. The wind so cold it hollows you. A new day will dawn just keep up the fight..”

“Cast Down My Heart” is track 10 on the album and is also another favorite of mine. With dueling vocals, guitar solos, and quick and steady drum beats. “What doesn’t kill us will make us stronger”, is the theme of this song (and a song lyric).

“What’s the use in trying? It won’t bring you back to me. Even though I feel like dying. This will make it stronger, what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.

“When it Comes to You” is track 11. It’s slowed down a bit (compared to previous songs) and would be considered a “ballad” by some. It’s a heart on the sleeve number, and a catchy song at that.

“I’m not sure what the future holds or what it is I’ll find. I know it won’t be the same. I don’t expect it to. It’s hard to welcome change when it comes to you. When it comes to you I can’t ignore. When it comes to you my heart is sore. When having means a whole lot of nothing it’s no use having more. When we’re long gone forgotten what did we live for. When will a change of heart come if they exist at all? It’s always so easy to answer when they call. Better days will come and I believe it’s true. It’s weird to see things change when it comes to you. When it comes to you I can’t ignore. When it comes to you my heart is sore When it comes to you I can’t be sure/ When it comes to you I’m out the door. I couldn’t lie even when I wanted to. I couldn’t hide couldn’t hide out from the Truth. I couldn’t lie, when I wanted to. Cause when it comes to you, when it comes to you.”

“Inside Out” is up next (track 12) and immediately takes charge in that typical fast beat Mxpx fashion. Song is fast and melodic, a sure fire winner in my book.

“We all got scars, so tell me who you really are. Many thoughts that we let go unspoken. The silence we create needs to be broken. The pain feels like you’re bleeding from the inside out. There’s no doubt it’s time to take the bandage off and tear your sutures out. I wanna see your insides on the out. I wanna know the things you think about, like what you’ve been through, what you plan to do. We all got scars. so tell me who you really are. I’m your registrar, so tell me who you really. We all got scars, so tell me who you really are.”

The album closes with “Nothing’s Gonna Change” and for me at least, it has that Ever Passing Moment vibe. It feels like a message to critics and the back biters who have nothing better to do than judge and point fingers. “With everyone trying to define you in one short paragraph and if you’re lucky, two”. That line says a lot and is especially poignant with Christians who insist on talking smack.

“When you’ve got sickness of the spirit and it’s caused an infection. Nothing’s gonna change unless you change yourself. Head into a new direction with everyone deciding to define you in one short paragraph and if you’re lucky, two. This is your affliction, this is your addiction, hysteria is crushing you. Just look at the world. As if for the first time in your life. Discover yourself. These ethics by numbers don’t add up at all.

It’s amazing to think that it has been 20 years of Mxpx and for me personally, 18 years of listening to their tunes. They’ve weathered the storms of rising and falling popularity, endured the sneers of critics and jabs of fellow believers. The band has made it through thick and thin and come back out on top swinging. What’s incredible is that the band’s music hasn’t really changed much in the past few decades, well enough that you wouldn’t recognize them anymore. Some bands that get praised in music circles are constantly tinkering with their core sound to the point where it’s not even the same band any more. I won’t name names but you probably get an idea of what bands I am speaking of. What’s neat about Mxpx, is that you can always count on them to deliver a high octane, energetic, melodic punk album without straying too far from their recognizable sound. It’s like when you hear that song on the radio and you go “Oh man, that’s so and so. I love this new song”. You hear a few seconds of an Mxpx song and you know right off the bat who it is and what to expect. There is that certain familiarity to the band and their music that breeds likeability and a sense of nostalgia.

Overall: Plans Within Plans is a great comeback album and fine re-introduction to the three piece known as Mxpx. It’s not perfect but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a little rough around the edges because it is punk rock and it’s supposed to sound this way. Although, I believe Mike did a fine job on production at his Monkey Trench Studios and the mixing/engineer team made this sound so much more than just a generic pop-punk album. Mxpx are far from generic seeing as though they single-handedly inspired a whole generation of music fan and influenced many bands around the music scene today. For those that don’t know, the three original Mxpx members, Mike, Tom, and Yuri, all play on this album and will be at the 20th anniversary shows this summer. The core musicians on every Mxpx album will always be Mike, Tom, and Yuri. It’s just that Tom and Yuri took a break from the full time touring cycle.

The layout on the album came out excellent (for those that enjoy physical media still) with many shots of the band at shows and in an intimate setting. I wasn’t at Yuri’s final show (when he quit the band from the full time touring circuit, he still plays on their records and at spot shows around the country), but I can take from the pics, that it was a good time. I dig the “Legend” shirts with Yuri’s face on them 😉 The rest of the packaging has that 90’s type appeal to it and I dig the Life in General vibe. It’s worth noting that The Swellers sang gang vocals on “Best of Times” and Seth Roberts (Watashi Wa/Lakes/Bonnie Dune) sang guest vocals on “Nothing Left”. Stephen Egerton (of ALL/Descendants) played guitar on “Far Away” and “In the Past”. I walk away from Plans Within Plans with a firm smile on my face and a penchant for revisiting my past. There is something special and unique about Mxpx music that takes me back to a time long since past. I have so many great memories cruising around southern California blaring their music and sporting their shirts. This album will be no exception to the rule and will get plenty of (re)plays during 2012. Thank you Mike and the gang for creating an exceptional album and for keeping punk rock alive. The only drawbacks I find with the album is that it is sort of short but then again that can be expected with a traditional punk rock record. The album clocks in at just 35 minutes. Those looking for a deep spiritual, life affirming “Christian” message from the songs will be a little disappointed but then I guess you never knew an Mxpx album in the first place, right? There is positivity all over this album and your parents will be proud that you didn’t bring home (do they “bring home” albums any more, I guess I meant “Download”) profanity laced punk rock filled with negativity and an anarchist message 🙂 It’s all good though because this is Mxpx and Plans Within Plans is the album they needed to make for people to forget that there was even a 5 year break between full lengths. There is a chance that this album could clobber Life in General and Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo to take top spot in my heart, but it doesn’t really matter because every Mxpx album is a winner in my book.

Score 9/10