Plans Plans – Col. Williamsburg

Plans Plans - Col. Williamsburg

Plans Plans - Col. Williamsburg

If you ever worked at or listened to your local college radio station, then the music of Maryland-based Plans Plans will sound uncomfortably familiar. Remember those instances of nonsensical vocals and lyrical incoherence, and the blatant examples of lo-fi production values with big drums and fuzzed-out bass? There’s plenty of it to be found on the band’s uninspired second LP, Col. Williamsburg. What about multiple instances of needless filler and slightly distorted guitar wankery? Don’t worry, it’s all here as well. And of course, there’s also the presence of classic rock’s influence, from a not-so-subtle preoccupation with the quirkiness of Captain Beefheart to the livewire spontaneity of the Stooges.

With song titles and album art that seem more likely to have come from the vault of a Decemberists’ project, it is at first surprising to hear that the songs on Col. Williamsburg lack the pretentiousness and fastidious songwriting of Colin Meloy’s outfit. In place of nostalgic prose sung in faux-Brit accents and song suites about rogue seafarers, we have comically chanted vocals that sound like a Monty Python sketch gone wrong and tunes about apprenticing trolls. In fact, this is really just a record of meat and potatoes rock with a predilection for art rock oddities.

The members of Plans Plans (Marc Dykeman, Jeff Dykeman, Keith Jones, and Steve Intlekofer) have been living the indie lifestyle since 2001, when the bandmates began recording in a farmhouse shack situated on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Songs were compiled using “crappy equipment” while the musicians subsisted on “a diet of boiled cabbage and beer.” Hundreds of miles were logged on the odometer each week so that the band could sharpen their craft. You’d hope that such determination to make music despite these dire straits would’ve resulted in something more captivating.

From beginning to end, this album meanders. Opener “Roman Baths” features a minute’s worth of low rumble from the drums and dissonant guitar noodling. “Birds Of Prey” plods along through grating falsetto vocals and a Sonic Youth-style noise freakout. “One To Grow On” finds the band doing a kitschy medieval chant in four part harmony: “There is love, there is hate, there is fire in the lake, and there’s nothing that we can do.” The song devolves into a dual guitar skronkfest. The restlessness of the instruments on “Towne Smithy” belies the stoned and mellow vocals about a blacksmith pounding iron.

There are enjoyable moments to be found within the album’s one hour running time, but they are decidedly fleeting; ironically, a couple of Col. Williamsburg’s most gripping ideas are to be found in the shortest tracks. “Tar Pit” is every bit as sludgy as the title suggests, with a nod to the grunge of the early 90’s. “Dark Horns” turns another aimless guitar jam into a melodic throwdown for clarinet and trombone.

Elsewhere, “Failure Of Darkness” finds slippery bass setting and druggy vocals suddenly disrupted by frenetic drumming and choppy guitar work. The song does a fine job of juxtaposing the psychedelic with the anarchic. “Musical Memories” features a galloping drum and bass combination that is unaffected by the occasional twinkling of a glockenspiel.

Eccentricities may have no finer home in music than under the roof of indie rock. If Plans Plans are going to make it some day, they’ll find their audience here. But certainly, a catchy melody or some alterations in the exhausted guitar/bass/drum set up might expedite that process.

Plan Plans