MxPx - Plans Within Plans, 2012 – Rock City Recording Company
Mike Hererra seems relatively at ease these days – and sitting on the backend of a 20-plus year career now spanning nine full length releases, four EPs, four compilation albums, one live album and two documentary DVDs, it’s certainly safe to say that he has every right to be. For it has been the fruits of his band’s laborious ways that have generated 20 hit singles, 2.5 million records sold, and numerous tours across the globe that saw the three best friends, at one point or another, setting foot on six of the seven continents this world has to offer. That’s not bad for a small-time band hailing out of small-town Bremerton, WA; a band who in the beginning, just wanted to make it big enough to play their friends’ house parties.
So I’m sure it was with great excitement that their early successes found them playing a show half way across the country, somewhere along the blustery outskirts of suburban Detroit; a show, that as fate would have it, I attended. They surely don’t remember it now, and for a band who’s played numerous shows in front of tens of thousands over the years, I wouldn’t expect them to. Yet on March 16, 1996, at a small church-turned-concert-hall, and to the tune of roughly 150 people in attendance, the band played an incredible blistering set that I certainly do remember. They captured the attention of many in the process, and most certainly that of one for years to come.
I’ve seen MxPx play 17 times since (I even saw the beloved side project Arthur perform once, off the side of a dusty hill behind some bro-ridden frat house outside UC Riverside, some time early in the year 2000), and I can honestly say that while sitting at the foot of the stage, in the shadow of Hererra’s towering microphone, jaw to the ground, my life irrevocably changed over the course of 90 minutes on that unsuspecting evening in 1996. Not only did I walk away with an unshakable love for MxPx the band, but a tremendous passion for music itself had been seeded somewhere deep inside my soul as a result. And while those tastes have branched out far beyond where they began, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for that special band who become a cornerstone in my life, literally changing the way I saw the world as a scrawny little kid growing up in a small town somewhere fairly close to the left of the middle of nowhere, America.
So here we are, 16 years after the love affair began, and Plans Within Plans finds MxPx sitting at the top of their game, while also representing a much needed reboot for a pop-punk powerhouse that previously saw two lackluster releases in Panic and Secret Weapon. This sudden resurgence may come as a surprise to many, since MxPx is technically no longer a fully functioning band. Long time guitarist, Tom Wisniewski, and drummer, Yuri Ruley, recently opted out in favor of “band retirement” as “life” happened (or the recording industry fell flat on its ass, you decide), forcing them to acquire more normal, steady paying jobs at a Bremerton shipyard. No longer held within the confines of touring engagements, the trio simply agreed to record together with Hererra accepting sole responsibility for taking the message to the masses as “The MxPx Allstars;” just him and a few of his good friends filling in and rounding out the roster on the road. Yet maybe this was all a good thing. Maybe time had simply beaten down the creative ethos within, and a break apart was necessary in order for them to kick things back into high gear.
Plans Within Plans gets a jolt up front in a major way with album opener, “Aces Up,” hitting the throttle immediately and never looking back. Given the recent circumstances surrounding his band’s current course correction, it would only seem fitting for Hererra to quickly advise, “Just deal the cards, and hope that you get aces / And when you play your hand, put on your poker faces / ‘Cause life just don’t deal aces, you may have to bluff sometimes.” So goes the course of the rest of the album – it’s at worst a thrillingly nostalgic ride, sure to leave long time fans feeling wholly satisfied and more. In what is one of the lyrically deeper songs on the album, ‘Nothing Left,’ Hererra explores themes surrounding the ways in which we interact with each other, as well as our own personal thoughts and feelings, on a daily basis. He makes the case that these interactions will shape not only our personal history, but our futures as well; that the decisions we make are ours and ours alone, but that they don’t come without consequences. In contrast, ‘Lucky Guy’ presents listeners with the happy-go-lucky, feel-good vibe of old; the kind that makes you want to roll the windows down and sing along while taking an afternoon drive down the coast. ‘When It Comes To You’ reflects on a relationship in serious turmoil, the kind that makes you want to quietly drive said car straight off a cliff and into the ocean.
Needless to say, there’s a little bit of everything for everyone, and Plans Within Plans finds a veteran band sounding rejuvenated, energized, and excited for wherever the future may take them. And yet, within this passion for the future, they find themselves extremely secure in where they’ve come from. While the record as a whole doesn’t really tread any new ground, it’s safe to say that after 20 years of proving themselves to the world, MxPx don’t necessarily need to. If anything, a return to form will be a welcomed change by those who’ve been around long enough to witness all the ups and downs these gents have had to endure along the way. In a career that’s seen the meteoric rise of one of punk’s greatest acts in recent memory, Plans Within Plans reminds us yet again why we fell in love with them in the first place.
Reviewer Rating: “they didn’t have no place to go, so they went back to a punk rawk show”
Arthur @ UC Riverside, early 2000