This record is like Superman. Yes, Superman. In the way he embodies everything ideal about America and its greatness, “Whatever’s Forever” embodies everything ideal and great about ’80s and ’90s Alternative Rock. Superman and Alternative Rock…I never thought those two things would be able to be compared. But they did and there’s nothing you can do about! Onto the review….
“Whatevers Forever” by The Plurals is full of pastiches and indulgences into the many different styles of Alternative Rock that emerged during the ’80s and ’90s. The band name checks Alternative Rock trailblazers Nirvana, Husker Du and The Pixies (among other groups) as influences on their sound and it shows. This is not a bad thing, however, as although you and I may easily recognize these influences, the sound is given The Pluralization treatment (ha!) by mixing the talents of Nicholas Richard (bass/vocals), Tommy McCord (guitar/vocals) and Hattie Danby (drums/vocals) into something purely Plurals.
The opener, “Plurality”, is driven by Danby’s pounding drum rhythm and the undeniably catchy harmonies of Danby and McCord. The crunching, punchy guitars add an extra layer to the already in-your-face arrangement. McCord’s lead vocals are hoarse and loud and only get more raucous as the song progresses, ending with him screaming like a mad man. The song ends with McCord screaming the lines “I only wanna be true because I love you” over and over, almost sounding like he’d blow his voice out at any moment.
“Sleepy Girl”, the second stop on the journey, holds up the Pixies at the bank of Quiet-Loud and reaps the rewards of a great song (and no jail time). During the verses, Richard’s vocals are in the call-and-response style with a “yeah?” bring about an almost creepy feeling to the song’s sparse verse arrangement of drums and a clean guitar. As the chorus explodes, so does everything else. The guitars come out of their cages and the vocals are soaring high….then only to come floating back down again quietly, then get pushed back up again….you get the idea. It’s like a roller coaster of destruction and reconstruction but it’s actually a song and not a roller coaster.
The next song, “Medic” continues to fine tune the previously established quiet-loud idea heard so far. However, where other bands are continually beating this long-dead horse, it feels refreshing, mainly due to Danby’s lead vocals. The intro feels pulled from the playbook of Husker Du or Nirvana, being loud and heavy yet not necessarily in-your-face. You know that a quieter section is on the horizon. Everything about the song is solid yet it doesn’t have the catchy qualities of the earlier songs.
Things take a turn down the wrong back road with “FTS (Idekwacs)”. McCord and Richard’s anguished screams swarm at you like killer bees and the instrumentation stings you some more with all the band’s gear taking on lives of their own with corrosive intensity. The only thing about the song that saves it from being a bees nest of noise are Danby’s backing vocals and those are even hard to spot among the chaos. Not my favorite song on the record but it’s short so that gives it some points on the board.
We get back on track with “All That You’ll Be”. Danby’s vocal talents are on display as she hits many different ranges and notes that had not previously been displayed. Her vocal talents help the song become a highlight on the record. Instrument-wise, acoustic guitars lead the way, with electric guitars producing feedback and chiming in here and there. The bass has mostly the same role, but it also provides melody and structure among the low-in-the-mix swathing guitars.
“Singalong” makes you do exactly that. With an instantly hummable intro, it sucks you in and you begin to sing along. Its done its job. Then as McCord sings over the guitar-producing melody, it pulls you in even further. Once the chorus hits, you know that you’ll be singing along no matter what. The bridge brings back the vocalized intro, then comes the guitar solo. Structure-wise, it’s pretty standard but it does its job to get you listening and humming along.
We almost get lost again with the song “Grumpy Willy” but we manage to stay on track somehow. Drawing heavily on the trademark melodic noise of Sonic Youth, the yelling of Hardcore Punk and the melody of Husker Du, the band delves into new sound territory on the record. McCord brings about a sense of normalcy with his short, quiet verse parts and light backing vocals. With about a minute to go, all hell breaks loose as McCord’s quiet verse is laid over top of Richard’s disturbed screams and not to mention the noisy, anything-goes guitar. The song, with all its chaos, ends not with a bang but with a slow, whimpering fade out.
With ‘Shy”, I feel like it’s the same road traveled as “All That You’ll Be” but with McCord taking over lead vocal duties instead of Danby. However, this doesn’t make the song any less great. In fact, it’s the best on the record. Something about it just gives me chills when I listen to it and I’m not sure why. As the pulsing acoustic guitar line keeps you drawn to the song, McCord calmly and serenely sings lines like “I smile the kind of smile distant cousins share at a funeral”. The song is very somber and almost empowering in its tone of grief. Yet, it isn’t a sad grief, more like “a new beginning”-feel to it. The song ends with feedback from an electric guitar. It is a subtle way to end such an emotional song.
“Sweet Shallow Malossy Our House Is Whatever” probably my least favorite song. The song travels through many different styles, from a stripped down intro and verses, to a slightly louder middle section then to a full-blown guitar freakout towards the middle and to the end. Many styles are covered in the space of seven minutes and they are all ones that have been covered better elsewhere on the record. From the quieter sections to the hell raising loud noise, it all seems duplicated. The song as a whole has its moments but each section feels separated and distinct.
Finally we’ve come back to Pluralsville with the end of the record in “Hanging Up”. Over a lone guitar, McCord recycles another vocal melody from “Medic”. He sings with Danby backing “And when you get all settled in, don’t count on me to still be waiting when you call, when you call”. Once this ends with a loud guitar chord blast, a new section begins with Richard yelling over an almost funky beat. This ends just as quickly and the record as a whole comes to a close.
Overall this record is something that any fan of Nirvana, The Pixies or lesser known bands like Husker Du and The Minutemen can get behind. Every style of Alternative Rock is covered here and done well. Even the songs that lack in some areas, excel in others. There is something that anyone can pick out and like. My personal favorite songs are “Plurality” and “Shy”. I like the record as a whole but, like everyone else, there are songs that stand out.
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