The Plastic Constellations: We Appreciate You

Daniel Rivera

Indie Noise-Poppers try to show some thanks before calling it quits.

The Plastic Constellations

We Appreciate You

Label: Frenchkiss
US Release Date: 2008-04-15
UK Release Date: 2008-04-15

It all ends with those steady claps, apropos to nothing. It's just a flow of in-time clapping. Maybe it is supposed to be a show of gratitude. Perhaps it is from them to us; perhaps from us to them; perhaps both. That's not the point. The point is that it may all be over. It may all be over, and not much of anyone knew that it ever started. We Appreciate You says the title, and one has to wonder if this magnanimous disposition has more to do with acceptance than it does gracefulness, or vice-versa. Ultimately, The Plastic Constellations have chosen to vanish into that good night, and they want to convey thanks to us for wasting some time with them.

"So many friends/ So many friends/ With so many friends/ We're bound to last 'til the end."

Just as they've shown countless times throughout their ten-plus years together, The Plastic Constellations are hardly Minnesota wordsmiths (they leave that to Craig Finn). However, there is a simple honesty and gentle phrasing in passages like this that no doubt lend themselves to scrutiny, but sting in places you may not realize or want to admit. The key to enjoying a band like The Plastic Constellations--besides seeing them live (SXSW is your last chance!) -- is understanding that, in the end, trite as it may sound, the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.

These wiry guitar riffs; these spit and sputter time changes; these break-beat percussion choices are all familiar in the world of The Plastic Constellations. Throughout their career, this troupe has developed a mode of operations not completely dissimilar to other bands in their rather dubious genre. What sets apart The Plastic Constellations, in my mind, is their apparent devotion to the art of excelling at being lackluster. This is not to say that they are not a talented band, or even a good band. In fact, quite the opposite is true. However, they've never really been able to have their different talents coalesce into something truly meaningful, as opposed to something simply special. The Plastic Constellations have always realized this, and wear their shortcomings like a badge of honor.

"Don't waste any time/ Cuz we only get one life/ Then it's gone for good."

That comes from We Appreciate You and the song "Hardland/Heartland". It is just a brief example of the labored, clichéd lyrical choices that The Plastic Constellations have always -- and continue--to employ with both pride and vigor. If not for these kinds of empty attempts at anthemic immortality at the expense of credibility, these boys just might be a lot more popular than they are at the moment. However, if not for their willful (almost petulant) dedication to these dime-a-dozen, way-of-the-world truisms and call-to-arms platitudes they might lose all of their charms. And there's the rub.

We Appreciate You continues the structural and stylistic choices that have helped to make them one of the better live acts that I have ever seen (it certainly helps to see them with The Hold Steady). The Plastic Constellations easily blend noise rock, post-punk, and snotty indulgence into tiny pop confections that are as seething as they are addictive. When topped off with the middling to maddening word styling of the band's frontmen, a hyperactive mix of journey and judgment is reached for the listener. We Appreciate You is short, not so sweet, and speaks well to this point.

The album's opener "Stay That Way" is, for lack of a better word, a perfect introduction to the band. It's loud, deceptively messy, smirking atmosphere helps them to latch their hooks into you fairly easily. Tracks like this one seem to help highlight what makes The Plastic Constellations so oddly compelling in the first place. Simply stated, the Plastic Constellations are probably one of the most honest bands around today. This quality can be found all through out We Appreciate You. Notable gems like "Disastrophe" and the aforementioned "Hardland/Heartland" blend up-tempo timing with jubilantly dissonant melodic structures and an all-too-vulnerable lyrical canvas.

The album's best track, its closer, "So Many Friends", provides maybe the best example of The Plastic Constellations' modesty, honesty and, of course, gratitude. Those steady claps that I mentioned earlier start it off, giving way to a barely there acoustic strum, repeated ad nauseam. It is an effortless track that is decidedly uncomplicated with its central conceit that… they've made a lot of friends, and really appreciate them all. The coda of the track has a choir of voices repeating those same words over and over again (the lyrics I cited up there in the second paragraph. Remember?) until the loudness of their resolve becomes a whisper, retreating all the way back to those steady handclaps. Those steady claps, acting as a heartbeat pumping blood until there simply is nothing left to pump.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.