Vocal harmonies plus poppy guitar hooks seems to be the formula for
rock n' roll success these days, and Pluto fits the description to a tee.
Last summer the band was playing all-ages gigs in the church basements of
their hometown of Vancouver, Canada; this summer they released their first
major-label, self-titled LP on Virgin Records. Propelled by a barrage of singable, guitar-
driven tunes, Pluto seems well able to hold their own in the major label
"Paste," the album's first single, is a fairly rocking song that
deals with the pain of emotional facades. "I could feel the glue holding
the smile upon my face/ when I think of you scrubbing the stain I can't
erase." But don't get the wrong idea, Pluto is not the band to look to if
you're in search of lyrical depth. Songs like "Black Lipstick" expose the
band's wry views on the excess of attitude in the music industry, while
still maintaining a strict "anti-angst" outlook as per the chorus, " My
girlfriend is in a band/ and I'm her number one fan."
The vocal duties, held down by guitarist Ian Jones and bassist John
Ounpuu, are Pluto's secret weapon. Jones' nasal snarl combined with
Ounpuu's drawly rasp are what define Pluto as a powerful pop rock force.
In "Expelled" the chorus, while a little over done in the past,
remains straight ahead slacker savvy- "I'm going nowhere, fast." While
Pluto's lyrics might not be the most thought provoking, one thing is for
sure, you can understand them, which in some ways is far better than having
to wade through the complex muck of weighty lyrical metaphors and hidden
meanings and interpretations.
Pluto is a riff band. Most, if not all, of their songs revolve
around the not so original formula of intro verse chorus verse, with a
sprinkling of bridges and simple melodic solos mixed in. This structure and
sound leads me to place them somewhere in between punk and pop. Pluto seems
smoother than Greenday but without the snark and sass of the Ramones.
For those unfamiliar with Pluto's short but eventful history, the
band already has one album under its belt. Released by Mint Records, a
smallish indie label in Vancouver that puts out stuff for bands like cub
and The Smugglers, Pluto put out an LP titled Cool Way to Feel. The
Virgin release contains some of the same material as the Mint album remixed
by the Butcher Brothers (Urge Overkill, Anthrax) with the addition of six
newly recorded tracks. Although some of the initial roughness and character
of the songs were lost in the remix, what emerged was a larger, brighter
sound with a much more professional sheen. However, both albums show the
raw energy and enthusiasm that is so signature to Pluto's style, recorded
and especially live. Be sure to catch one of their shows when these boys
blow through town, as it's probably the most convincing testament to
whatever charm they possess.
"Locked and Loaded" a track that's on both albums, is my favorite
Pluto song to date. A catchy drum intro starts the song which takes off
with the sincere and unaffected vocals of John Ounpuu as he laments the
fact that his girlfriend won't answer the phone. "She don't talk much cause
she don't have much to say/ she won't listen, but I keep talking anyway/
try to call her, phone rings and rings, just sings and sings."
"When She was Happy", a new song and the Virgin album's second
single, shows the band's progression in style since the first recordings.
The pounding vocals and driving beat of the verse contrast well with the
melodic harmonies of the chorus. The short vocal interlude of "Ah-ah's"
before the solo is an added bonus as well. It's a little bit rawer than the
earlier songs and the band's increased cohesiveness and confidence is
evident. Tighter and more in your face, this song betrays a band with a
major label deal and a goal of rockstardom.
The cool thing about Pluto is that you can sing along with the
songs and not feel dumb about getting the words wrong. The not so cool
thing is that all the songs kind of sound like one really long song which
can get a little irritating if you're into variety. Basically, if you're in
the market for thoughtful, interest-rock, skip this disk. However, if
you're looking for that perfect soundtrack to your college
"I-don't-care-I'm-so-fun" years, this is the cd to get. Because of all the
songs sounding so similar, itÕs like the fun never ends.