Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Apologies to Banner Pilot, Gob and the Copyrights. For far too long critics have thrown around portmanteaus like “ponk” and “pup” or simply the hyphenated “pop-punk.” What does it mean? Well, the intention is rather benign with respect to the aforementioned bands. It simply says that they’re playing a style rooted in what punk used to sound like, but inspired by the stuff of pop music — relationships, hot summer nights and enough catchy melody to go full ear-worm. If you consider punk history, such a qualifier as “pop” is far more ridiculous than our modern usage acknowledges. A music and style celebrated for its irreverence, counter-culture and anti-social behaviour has absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on with Simple Plan’s first record in 5 years, Taking One for the Team. So let’s just dispense with it. This is not a punk record. Not at all. This is a pop record in the spirit of the later efforts of Offspring. While punk fans everywhere remember Smash with a gushing fondness, you won’t find a single one of them who will own up to the same affection for “Pretty Fly for a White Guy.” The same goes here. Consider reggae — yes, reggae — track “Singing in the Rain.” It’s tempting to draw comparisons to the long-standing affair between punk and ska (think Sublime and Rancid). But that all falls apart when you realize that this track is the vanilla milkshake of reggae tracks, more Doug and the Slugs than Bob Marley — no offence to Doug. “Everything Sucks” — also, infuriatingly, the name of a fantastic song by the legendary and, it must be said, original pop punk band Descendants — is so over-the-top bubblegum that it could be the opening track on a Mini Pops LP. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that. Great pop albums have been made by notable bands from the Beach Boys to Prozzak with this formula. From start to finish, this record has more “Woh-oooh-oooh”s and “Woo-woo”s than a Disney ride. And just as that song ends, “I Refuse” opens on exactly the same theme. If not for the fact that every pop sub-genre is explored — possibly exploited — in these 14 tracks, one might mistake it for being monotonous. Speaking of pop: Nelly makes an appearance on the record. “I Don’t Want to Go to Bed” has got blaring horns, Top 40 beats and shuffling dance steps. There isn’t a hint of irony as it rips the formula straight out of the Bruno Mars playbook. You could make a joke like What’s next — a country song? Har har…, but then “Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching” shows up wearing a stetson. But let’s be positive. There’s some decent fast rock ‘n’ roll on tracks like “Nostalgic” as well. This is actually where Simple Plan really shines. Pierre Bouvier’s apparently permanently pre-pubescent vocals are perfect for this brand of guitar-driven, boxcar drummed sugar-pie. It almost redeems “Perfectly Perfect.” No. Wait. Flashback to grade 9 waltz melodrama. You can almost smell the odor of irresponsibly splashed Drakkar Noir and the preteens, hands placed awkwardly on hips wobbling and rotating under the spinning flash of a single Radio Shack disco ball. They stare at the wall, considering the deep meaning of the songs lyrics but come up dry, their thoughts shifting instead to the eagle-eye of the chaperone. You have to hand it to them. They’ve checked every box on modern pop charts from auto-tune to featured hip hop artist. And when you think it can’t get any more mixed bag, you’re listening to a duet complete with strings and Juliet Simms. “I dream about you/ Heaven only knows I do.” But it all feels designed for the elevator, not for music fans. When you go into a small town Chinese restaurant and find sushi on the menu right next to the pizzas and burgers, you can certainly understand it. It’s about commerce and economy. It’s about meeting as many needs as possible in a closed market. Unfortunately, it also means none of them is likely to be handled with any particular care or consideration. Here’s a real simple plan — save yourself 10 bucks, skip this record and make yourself a mixtape.