Reviews Plow United Marching Band

Plow United

Marching Band

After a run from 1992-1998, Plow United reformed in 2011 and they return with new material in the form of Marching Band (Jump Start Records). Plow United hasn’t just re-formed, they’ve written the best 1990s record of the 2010s. Brian McKee’s voice has matured with the years and the songs are tighter and more polished than their early output. Some of that youthful poise is lost, replaced with a more community-focused approach. Fans will notice a difference from the Sleep Walk songs but not a massive departure in sound. It’s short and punchy, with more slogan-style lyricism and a less personalized/first-person tone. It takes modern beard punk sensibilities and lends then toward 1990s choral refrains and social causes.

The record is pop-punk at its core, brought down to elemental levels of repetition, group singalongs, and corralling universal emotions into a catchy slogan. All of the above makes it sound like this record isn’t unique, but that isn’t the case either; it just fits well within a certain confine. The songs carry a nice frontman presence from McKee as the songs build in energy and come together for the chorus. It’s verse-chorus-verse, with a definite focus on lyricism. At times it gets jingoistic, as in “The War Is Over and Our Side Won,” but it’s in “that preach to the choir/let’s celebrate” fashion—more of a post-World Series exclamation than a pulpit finger-waving. The point of view is definitely in establishing bigger picture topical points rather than personalizing it and the tone can be summarized well with the closing lyrics of “The World Is a Slum,” where they state: “It’s just as naïve to say everyone sucks/ as is it to think everyone’s kind” Curiously I associate this sloganizing as a 1990s remnant, but it feels more prevalent on Marching Band than in their older material.

While the songs follow a fairly set blueprint, they mix up progressions, vocal inflections, tempos, and melodies enough to avoid the sameness that buries a lot of pop-punk (you won’t find any Lookout Records comparisons here). Drummer Sean Rule is a big contributor, and the clean production gives the percussion a stronger force in the mix. On a down note, the guest vocals in “The World Is a Slum,” are rather grating, quickly driving the song into the discard pile.

That’s just one misstep though, and really Plow United has released a kicker of a record, their first in 14 years. Usually when a band reunites, the new songs feel stale or forced. Here, it feels like nothing but relentless heart coming from the band.

7.5 / 10Loren
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Jump Start

2013

7.5 / 10

7.5 / 10

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