Saturday, July 7, 2018

PLASTIC TEARS "Angels With Attitude"

(c) 2018 City Of Lights Records

  1. Dark Passenger
  2. Secret Society
  3. Iris Kick
  4. Midnight Date
  5. Rhythm Rider
  6. Nuclear Nights
  7. Blue Angel
  8. Day By Day
  9. Headless Army
  10. Miss Stumbling Legs
  11. Universal Kid
Miqu December--Vocals
Andy Whitewine--Guitars
Juha Pietilainen--Guitars
Edu Kittunen--Bass
Eco Xtasy--Drums

Plastic Tears is a Finnish band I know absolutely nothing about, but when lead vocalist, Miqu, contacted me about reviewing their third album, Angels With Attitude, I told him I would be happy to give the band a listen.  While not declaring this the album of the year, or anything like that, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by what Plastic Tears offers here.   

Describing themselves as "street rock", Plastic Tears occupies an interesting spot, musically.  Combining elements of 80s New Wave rock with a lot of classic 70s/early 80s glam rock (think Bowie, New York Dolls, Slade, and especially fellow Finns, Hanoi Rocks), dashes of sleaze, hints of Cheap Trick (mostly in the poppier, hookier songwriting style), and some obvious punk influences.  The resultant sound is an up-tempo, gritty rock style that doesn't sound like anyone in particular, but that has the look, sound, and feel of pretty much everyone mentioned in one way or another.

The album starts off with one of the sleaziest tracks on the record with the revved-up 70s-inspired "Dark Passenger".   A thick bass line supports the verse sections of the track, while some sleazed-up, fuzzed-up guitars churn their way through the chorus and a solo section, as Miqu's vocals snarl their way through the track.  It is those vocals, by the way, combined with some interesting syncopation on the drums in places on this track...and others...that bring about the New Wave comparisons that I mentioned in the description above.  For anyone who grew up in the 80s, there are going to be some very obvious moments where Miqu's slightly nasal, slightly emo vocals are going to recall the radio rock style that I am referring to here, although Miqu doesn't particularly echo any one specific singer.  Not everywhere is this the case, but when you hear it, you will know it.  This is even more evident later on with more alternative sounding, maybe even more dramatic sounding, "Day By Day", which is one of the sleeper tracks on the album for me.  It doesn't really fit the style of the majority of the record, but it is definitely a solid song that showcases the band's ability to work in more than one style.  There is still some good guitar work here, but, as an example, the quirky section coming out of the guitar solo is completely different than anything utilized on the rest of the record, with Miqu echoing his snarled vocals with nearly spoken parts over a sparse bass and drum section.  "Nuclear Nights" has that New Wave-inspired feeling, as well, and dang it if I don't find myself bopping along to the rhythm of this song later on as it ends up being snared in my mind!  Interesting, unique, and unexpected, this odd incorporation of multiple styles is what keeps Plastic Tears from sounding like anyone else that has crossed my desk in quite some time, and keeps me interested after multiple spins.

As good as "Day By Day" and "Nuclear Nights" are, for my money, the fun punky rocker, "Iris Kick" is the best track on the album, with a rumbling bass line starting things off and never backing down throughout the entirety of the track, while the guitars rip and tear their way through the bouncy track.  Xtasy's drums add some nice bottom-end thump coming out of the lead solo as Miqu reintroduces the song's simple-yet-singable chorus.  Nearly as catchy and fun is the follow-up rocker, "Midnight Date".  Rather than utilizing a big guitar solo, "Midnight Date" actually uses more of an extended drum fill, giving Xtasy a bit of time to shine.

If "Iris Kick" is the best song on the album, "Miss Stumbling Legs" is a very close second, coming across as a sleazed-up barroom rocker that Faster Pussycat might have found themselves tangling with on their debut effort.  "Headless Army" is another punkish rocker with a catchy hook and an extremely singable chorus that really finds the band firing on all cylinders, as does the amped-up rockabilly of "Blue Angel".  The album closes in similar fashion with yet another sleazy punk number, "Universal Kid", which feels a lot like a song Dogs D'Amour or Quireboys would have played with back in the day.  A solid way to bring an overall fun and surprising album to a close.

The production here is rather raw, with a definite live feeling to much of the music.  Don't mistake that for me saying it sounds "garage" or "demo", because that is not what I am saying.  Gritty and dirty and real are words that better apply, as there are no obvious production tricks played on the listener here, no canned elements or vocal adjustments or layer-upon-layer of guitar tracks to try to make the sound  bigger than it is.  If I have one complaint here it is that the album seems to have been recorded rather quietly, with a definite difference in volume levels between this album and whatever album I have cued up next.  Perhaps this is merely an issue with the digital review version that I am working with.  Otherwise, I like the feel of the record and I imagine that what you hear on Angels With Attitude is very much what you would hear from Plastic Tears in a live setting.

I find it likely that I will be tracking down the older material from Plastic Tears, as I was impressed with what the band has done here.  Again, it's not that this album is Earth-shattering, as much as it is that the band holds tight to their conviction to be themselves here, not wavering in their own unique approach to a well-known style and sound, and not catering to trends.  Plastic Tears is not a band you are likely to hear anybody copying or imitating, and any who try will likely find themselves falling short, as Plastic Tears is Plastic Tears, period.  They are not who you want them to be, but they are very good at being themselves, and in a world of cookie-cutter bands, being yourself is an impressive feat.  I wish more bands would go this route rather than try to follow the wave of what's popular now.

Rating:  Definitely crankable, but an album that will challenge those who are pigeon-holed into one particular style of rock, Angels With Attitude definitely earns its 7.5.

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