Plain White T's are just that...


Published: Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

This week, Aurora listens to ..."New York Dolls," the debut album from the New York Dolls (1973)

AURORA: The New York Dolls were known for their over-the-top sleaze glam-rock shows, filled with punk rock edginess. Hailing from New York City, this band was ready to rock the socks off any group around with songs like the quick hit "Personality Crisis," which starts their first album with a bang. Not only is the album filled with edgy heavy metal tunes, but it also explores problems of the early '70s such as the Vietnam War and war against mental health - mixed in with screeching guitars.

BILL: They were credited with being punk before there was "punk." But they did it with a gritty, glam veneer that paved the way for heavy metal.

AURORA: What I like about the Dolls is their attitude ... no one can say this band was missing any sort of edge. While others at the time were dolling up to dance at a glam disco, the Dolls were playfully singing about a "Bad Girl" and taking out the "Trash." And, looking at their over-the-top makeup and visuals, you could see this campy group was probably trying to give Kiss a run for their money.

BILL: The Dolls predated Kiss a year or two and actually inspired their fellow New Yorkers to go in an opposite direction, forsaking the Dolls' androgynous style for their more masculine, all-in-black look.

AURORA: Though some of the songs get a little heavy at times for me, it was awesome to listen to a band that paved the way for later campy rock groups such as The Darkness. This was definitely the band to look up to for being cutting edge.

This week, Bill listens to..."Every Second Counts," from Plain White T's (2007)

BILL: These Chicago bubba-heads were paying dues for years before the acoustically driven "Hey There Delilah" put them in the pop-rock driver seat for success last year. Though that song shows up here, on the group's major-label debut album, it mainly serves to show an album full of Plain White T's isn't necessarily dressed for success.

AURORA: So, I'm guessing they didn't necessarily give you the urge to put them on and into your CD player as quickly as you would sport a crisp, white Hanes, huh Bill?

BILL: While "Hey There Delilah" had enough of an earnest ballad sound to serve kind of as a whiff of fresh air amid all the sound-alike pop-punkers, their major-label debut shows them mostly jumping on the bandwagon of many of their contemporaries, like Motion City Soundtrack, for example, which they toured with two years ago.

AURORA: I do love "Hey There Delilah" and find it to be a very romantic, soft and dreamy tune that kids will lap up in no time. Their lyrics are also more creative than the usual emo fare, don't you think so?

BILL: OK, I admit they have an occasional knack for the witty lyric and/or song title, such as "Friends Don't Let Friends Dial Drunk," which adds an almost Weezer-ish take to the proceedings. But the acoustical "Write You A Song" comes across as "Delilah Part 2" (despite some nifty guitar sounds). As another song title, "So Damn Clever," suggests, sometimes they're too damn clever for their own good.

Bill Dean, entertainment editor of The Gainesville Sun, grew up listening to rock and roll, soul and country in the 1970s. Aurora Rodriguez, of Hollywood, Fla., grew up listening to pop music in the 1990s. They are from different generations, but they are both music lovers with an open mind. Each week, they swap CDs in hopes of broadening their musical horizons.

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