When we last left the Plus Ones, things seemed hunky-dory for the Bay Area power pop outfit. The group (no relation to the similarly named Christian boy band) had just released their first full-length, It’s a Calling, which followed their debut EP, On the List, and a split record with The Travoltas. Vocalist and bassist Joel Reader (formerly of the Mr. T Experience) had a tough time cementing a line-up (which originally included Screeching Weasel’s Dan Panic), but eventually found partners for Calling, including Pansy Division’s Luis Illades on drums. Calling generated only a mild stir, but more than a few critics seemed to think that time would cement the Plus Ones as the saviors of modern power pop.
But that was 2002. With no releases and virtually no word for three years, the band was effectively missing in action. Then, in mid-2005, the Plus Ones popped up with a new album, Oh Me of Little Faith, announced for release in July of 2005 and anchored with a new guitarist, Alexis Melnicki.
Yes, the Plus Ones are back, and it sounds like they listened to a lot of Sloan in their downtime. Not that that’s a bad thing, of course; the disc has a greater emphasis on harmonies and a dense, heavily-layered production, both hallmarks of Canada’s celebrated power pop gurus. They reassert their differences, however, in the band’s brief (yet jarring) jaunts into Emo on songs like “A Month of Sundays”.
While it’s good to see the Plus Ones haven’t lost their sense of humor — “She’s Not a Metaphor” is hilariously anti-poetry and “Suicide Pact (You First)” speaks for itself — the band’s success appears to be at the cost of their sense of fun. The album’s tempo is slower than Calling, aimed more at interpersonal relationships and cloudier in its outlook. Gone is the lighter fare; songs like “A-M-Y (That Spells Amy)” and the pointed in-jokes of being a poppy outfit on the indie scene have been put aside in favor of “serious” subject matter, a decision that will frustrate most power pop fans.
To put it bluntly, Oh Me of Little Faith is not the record that many expected after a three-year wait. This isn’t the band that covered the Kinks’ “You Still Want Me” and Badfinger’s “No Matter What” on their debut EP and split album, respectively. The Plus Ones expertise is built upon setting love laments to peppy, catchy tunes, and there is little that is peppy on this album. The dichotomy, however, is that they haven’t lost their touch for catchy hooks and straight-ahead pop rock. If nothing else, Oh Me of Little Faith will serve as a reminder to fans that musical evolution is inevitable… the key is that evolution simply means “different”, not “better”.