Sound: Even if you hate to admit it, "Hey There Delilah" was a chart topper that deserved it's mesmerizing nature. One point being, the track was a single for the 2005 release All That We Needed and didn't overwhelm the airwaves until mid-2007. The Illinois pop rock quintet haven't be able to quite capture that magic a second time though The Wonders Of The Younger flashes a new, imaginative case. Trading heartwarming adolescent anthems for creativity, the sixth studio attempt is designed to evoke awe and adventure; production from Ian Kirkpatrick pounds that idea to death, familiarizing the group with synth pop hooks on "Map Of The World" and orchestral bits that question Plain White T's direction. Are they trying to be more indie? Are they testing their musical abilities? Or are they just experimenting while keeping things short, simple and cute?
All could be valid answers for the reason behind Wonders' foundation. Inspired by a Vegas Cirque du Soleil show, the album seems like a lost attempt at branching out with more misses than hits, but the platter of sounds blends smoothly and pushes forward refined pop rhythms that only seem like a natural progression from the band. While "Cirque Dans La Rue" falls short at bedazzling, "Body Parts" opens up with a mysterious character ripped straight out of the sequel for Forgive Durden's Razia's Shadow. "Rhythm Of Love" tries its hardest to be yet another milestone for the group, and despite it's television appearances, it's simply a sign of how Plain White T's can wrap earnest songwriting in a sense of pop that still burns with a pop punk flame. // 7
Lyrics and Singing: Singer/guitarist Tom Higgensen isn't a lyrical genius; he's a modern songwriter who's made his shade in the destruction of love, making him capable of transferring thoughts and emotions to paper and then to music. Age hasn't catapulted his skill as it's one that's clearly been around since the yester-years (see 2002's "A Lonely September"). It has been tweaked; "Our Song" and it's radio fresh vibe compliments the frontman's voice as does "Last Breath", an out of place number that takes elements of powerpop and shadows it with an adult face and an honest chorus.
Where Higgenson falters is his decision to let his mind wander off to wherever it choses, releasing imaginative thoughts and dreams that don't necessarily tie in with the album lyrically. "Killer" plays with eerie undertones, accenting Wonders' trip into the strange, but "Broken Record" downplays any confirmations of tapping into a creative side. "Kissed me goodbye and I knew it was final / Got in her daddy's car and she was gone like vinyl," swoons the singer, on what almost spins like an amateur pop single instead of representing the Plain White T's moniker. // 6
Impression: The Wonders Of The Years derived from Higgenson's imagination to be nostalgic and recapture the beauty life while not holding back. Stepping over the boundary the group should have laid in place is what strangles them. The album glows with true experimentation, a rare occurrence for pop rock artists, which could easily be credited to the band's roots. Before they glided onto the main stage, they were small tour performers entwined in a genre that landed them on the Vans Warped Tour circuit. Their history still breathes but fails to overpower their future, thus making Wonders' an original attempt that starts the show with tricks up its sleeve but fails to astonish with a grand finale worth listening to more than once. // 6
- Joshua Khan (c) 2013