Oh, MxPx, how I miss you between releases. Almost twenty years since the guys from Bremerton formed while still in high school, the trio is back for a ninth studio album, and as strong as ever. The gap between their last album, Secret Weapon and this one, marks the longest in their history at five years, and proves that good things are worth the wait.
Mike Herrera and Co. have come under fire in the past for being a “Christian” band, and one that dabbles a little too freely in the pop-punk category more recently, but Plans Within Plans is about as straightforward punk as they’ve ever been, and reminds me a lot of their Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo album from 1998. While Secret Weapon and even Panic seemed to focus more on radio-friendly tunes and crisp harmonies, their latest lays it all on the table and returns to their earlier skate-punk style beginnings, with crunching power chords and frenetic energy.
“Aces Up” could have come straight off of 2000’s The Ever Passing Moment, but also blends with the Vegas style themes of Herrera’s rockabilly side project, Tumbledown. It then shifts (pretty abruptly) into an all-out frenzy on the “Screw Loose” at just over a minute long, and reminiscent of “Fist vs. Tact” or “Easier Said Than Done.”
The whole album only comes in at 35 minutes long over thirteen tracks, which is about as old school MxPx as it comes. Guitar power slides on tunes like “Inside Out” and great bass riffs like on “The Times” are all back and sound so good after a long five year absence. I would venture to say there are only one or two radio-friendly tracks on the entire record and that is actually a good thing. “When It Comes to You” relates a love lost, and slows it down to a more relatable pace, but the BPM’s never drop too low, and you won’t hear a single sappy love song.
I’m pretty sure the various side projects and time off have paid off in terms of overall musicianship and creativity on this record. Check the great guitar solo that opens the frantic “Far Away” or the maturity they show on the varied “Nothing’s Gonna Change” to see what I mean. With regard to Christian themes, they aren’t quite as obvious as some of their past albums, but if you dig a little deeper, they are still ever present. “Stay on Your Feet” brings across a theme of solidarity and promises a hopeful tomorrow, while the closing track which urges that “Nothing’s gonna change, unless you change yourself add it to a new direction.”
Try This Track: “Far Away”