Simple Plan manages to be gloomy, chipper

Pop-punk band appeals to a young MTV crowd

Music: in concert, CDs

February 05, 2004|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun Pop Music Critic

Beneath the skater-boy image and good-time vibe, the guys of Simple Plan are sensitive. They feel your pain. Misunderstood by your folks? Feel like the rest of the world is against you? These Canadian pop-punk dudes have been there.

On No Pads, No Helmets ... Just Balls, the band's platinum major-label debut, SP articulates teen angst over brash, rambunctious arrangements: God must hate me / He cursed me for eternity / God must hate me / Maybe you should pray for me ...

The lyrical content may seem dark and pessimistic, but the warp-speed music stimulates you. You don't even realize you're rockin' to such a sad tune.

"We just write about stuff we've been through," says lead singer Pierre Bouvier, 23. He's calling from a tour stop in Minneapolis. "I guess it's strange that the music can be depressing but still sound happy. It's kinda cool, actually."

Simple Plan, which plays the 9:30 Club Sunday night, hails from Montreal and includes drummer Chuck Comeau, 23, bassist David Desrosiers, 22, and guitarists Sebastian Lefebvre, 21, and Jeff Stinco, 24.

Like Good Charlotte, the Maryland punk band, SP is another group of spike-haired, T-shirt-and-sneakers-sporting fellas appealing mostly to those who tune in to MTV's Total Request Live.

In fact, SP's breakout single, "I'm Just a Kid," was a favorite on the teen-oriented show. The song has become an anthem of sorts: I'm just a kid / And life is a nightmare / I'm just a kid / I know that it's not fair. The whiny tone of the lyrics is overshadowed by the aggressive guitars and crashing drums.

"I think we can sound young," says Bouvier, 23. "Labels thought we sound young, but we always have something to say in the lyrics."

The momentum was steady. But more than a year after its release, No Pads, No Helmets found a wide audience, selling a million copies. "Grow Up," SP's hit single off the Scooby-Doo soundtrack, raised the band's profile and sparked sales. Before the guys became darlings on MTV and punk-rock tours, they were just another band in Canada trying to get a break.

Bouvier and Comeau were 13 when they met and formed a band called Reset. But Comeau eventually left the group and started his own. But when Bouvier disbanded Reset, Comeau rejoined his buddies, and Simple Plan started to take shape. (The name comes from A Simple Plan, a 1998 Billy Bob Thornton flick.)

The band toured relentlessly after high school. In 2001, the group played the Van Warped tour. Inspired by Blink-182 and Sum 41, Simple Plan goes for strong melodies and formulaic lyrics, eschewing ballads. SP's brand of punk -- its sound and stage theatrics -- isn't the gloomy stuff from late '70s and early '80s. If you look past such lines as "yesterday was the worst day ever / and tomorrow won't be better" and just ride on the high-octane music, the guys come off as chipper.

And as long as Simple Plan fans are happy, the band is cool. "The fans are the people that matter the most," Bouvier says. "If no one is there to listen, what's the point?"

Simple Plan plays the 9:30 Club, 815 V. St. N.W., Washington, Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the matinee show are $20; the evening performance is sold out. For more information, visit www.930.com

For CD reviews, band profiles and concert listings, go to www.SunSpot.net / music

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