Review ·

Not too many pleasant images are associated with New Jersey: questionable odors, thick, dark clouds, and the South Jersey cheerleaders with layered foundation and Texan high hair (born in this frightening part of Jersey, I have full mocking rights). Following in the steps of Jersey-bred, talented punk bands as Bouncing Souls, Plan A Project attempts to erase this bleak portrayal with its eponymous sophomore album and give Jersey residents something to be proud of.

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Plan A Project rapidly gained a following after forming in 1995 and the release of its first full-length, Spirit of a Soldier in 1999. In their second album, they continue to reflect their talent for catchy, melodic rhythms infused with scratchy guitars and disordered vocals to avoid delving into the sad leagues of Blink-182 pussy "punk."

The gang vocals that compose most of the album avoid the problem of arrogant singers who don't know when to shut up and let the music take over, even if only for a few seconds. Plan A lets the sped-up, powerful bass lines define their sound as much as the vocals, creating music people could get moving to.

You get the feeling that Plan A is becoming more comfortable with their sound; they ignore the need to lay bland covers smack in the middle of the album, as they did with the Clash's "White Riot" on Spirit of a Soldier. Instead they leave their ode to idols Operation Ivy for the "secret song" at the end, the only spot a band has full fuck-around rights. Wanting to give some sort of dedication to your inspirations is great and all, but it goes better at a show than on a CD, especially if the band chooses to follow almost exactly the same sound.

Just like songs about beer, anthems about getting off your ass and into the pit have been so overdone that its hard to compete with classics as 7 Seconds "Bottomless Pit" or D.R.I.'s "Thrashard." Even though Plan A Project offers a completely different sound than 7 Seconds or D.R.I., the pit-dedicated "Battleground" drags on because it offers nothing new or unique to this sub-genre of punk songs. But the suspiciously catchy "Battleground" remains the only real letdown for Plan A's second album.

With natives like Plan A Project, it looks like New Jersey may be able to come a little further out of their tainted status after all. Just a little.

Murs - The End of the Beginning Turbonegro Ass Cobra [7.0] and Apocalypse Dudes [8.0] (reissues)

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