8889 – My Music Plan
Written by John Payne
Originally conceived several years ago as Plan A, 8889 took their time in developing their catchy, melodic style, but with their first full-length release My Music Plan, it has become clear that the wait was worth it. My Music Plan is near-perfect guitar pop, a Midwestern spin on a grand British tradition. The melodies are gorgeous and infectious, the rhythm section is solid and sufficiently varied, while vocalists Ross Benbow and Jason Teteak consistently find unique ways to harmonize. They write lyrics that range from clever (the first line on the album is “Maybe this will be our last dance”) to heartbreaking and pensive (“We all want to be abused / It gives us all a good excuse”). And former glam guitarist Casey Collins unfailingly spices up the chord progressions both with subtle accent/texture playing as well as straight-forward, melodic lead lines.
8889 have received numerous comparisons to Coldplay in local publications and Internet fan sites, and their own members have also cited Coldplay’s breakthrough album A Rush of Blood to the Head as being a significant influence on their music. But these comparisons must be made with caution. Certainly there are similarities; both are highly indebted to groups like the Beatles, the Smiths, U2, and Radiohead, and both are capable of turning relatively simple melodies into giant, sweeping epic moments. But it’s more important to note the differences between these two. 8889 aren’t quite like Coldplay; they’re more like Coldplay for people who can’t stand Coldplay. The production is slick and radio-friendly, but never excessive or lifeless. The lyrics are sincere and heartfelt, but never sappy (at least never to the point of inducing the gag reflex). Most importantly, smooth, natural singing stands in for an over-the-top falsetto extravaganza. So if you, like some people, cannot tolerate Coldplay, don’t let the frequent comparisons discourage you from checking out what these Midwestern Brit-poppers can do.
The only missteps in My Music Plan occur when 8889 try a little too hard to pay homage to another major influence: Radiohead. Taking cues from OK Computer, 8889 insert semi-experimental noise in a few places, like near the end of “The Prince,” in an attempt to evoke its aesthetic. The various glitches that occasionally pop up don’t meld with the songs as smoothly as they would probably like, and often feel like an afterthought intended to make their songs more closely resemble the masters’ (even the title of the unnecessarily long “The Exit Song” recalls Computer’s “Exit Music”). But only with the backward-tracked guitars on “Probability, Possibility” does 8889’s noise-making equal their songwriting prowess.
This minor shortcoming, however, is redeemed by the song quality. If you’re weary of both lazy songwriting posing as underground, and bland, formulaic radio tunes, you’ll want to check out “Dandelions,” “Two-Way Dream” and…well, pretty much the whole damn CD.