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Child's Play 

The Plain White T's made a concept album about childhood. It sounds a bit immature.

click to enlarge Singer Tom Higgenson (center) and the Plain White T’s
  • Singer Tom Higgenson (center) and the Plain White T’s

They tried. They really did. The Plain White T’s took on the adventurous task of making a concept album and, well, floundered.

Unlike their previous albums, The Wonders of the Younger attempts to revive the nostalgia of childhood in one bright, shiny package.

“Our past albums were just a bunch of random songs,” says guitarist and lead singer Tom Higgenson. “We weren’t trying to convey a message aside from these are our songs and this is our band. But I’m in a point in my life right now where I want to convey a bigger message.”

But the random songs made them popular.… The pop-rock group released a string of singles in the late 2000s that stampeded the pop charts and sent them home with Grammy nominations. Songs like “Delilah” and “I,2,3,4” gave them just the right amount of airplay and exposure to change their sound.

“We tried to tap into something a little more imaginative and artistic than we had done before,” Higgenson says. “I kinda had this big concept in mind to make a very adventurous, very epic concept album. So a project like that calls for a thicker, richer production.”

This density is measured in crashing cymbals, pop-charged guitars and distant triangles. But sonically, it’s everything you’ve ever heard from My Chemical Romance, Story of the Year and Fall Out Boy, all rolled into one faintly-emo-yet-still-mainstream package.

What makes the album distinctive is the songwriting, which threads each song together in an attempt to make the album conceptual.

“This seems so much more of an album than we’ve ever made before,” Higgenson says. “I had this specific concept for Wonders of the Younger. I was remembering my childhood and wishing I could escape with all those people and that feeling from the past.”

The album hints at circus life (also incorporated into the band’s live show) with mention of carnies, clowns and bearded ladies. Soon, however, it’s taking a more childlike approach.

Higgenson’s songs about cowboys, astronauts and Indians feel genuine. Without being excessive, they cast childhood in a soft and wondrous light.

Higgenson says that intentional craftsmanship is what makes the album unique.

“Anything that comes from true inspiration translates,” he says.

“Even rehearsing these songs, they just feel so much more important and big and more powerful than anything else I’ve done. You can just feel it playing it.”

Plain White T’s play with Parachute • Fri, Feb. 4, at 7 pm • Knitting Factory • $20 • All-ages • ticketfly.com • 244-3279

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