Plan B

Cyber Chords & Sushi Stories

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Ignore the title, which seems to promise a descent into some Gen-X rave grunge hell. This German quartet is actually a very user-friendly rock band, with an old-fashioned knack for strong hooks -- which manage to surface no matter how high-tech the setting. In fact, Plan B has often been compared to the Clash, and if you take that comparison to heart (it's not completely unwarranted), its third album is a little like a poor man's London Calling. There's not quite the stylistic breadth of that masterpiece, but the group does embrace a variety of styles -- soulful dance rock ("Life's a Beat"), techno ("Cops Pin Rap on Batman"), reggae ("Little Hitlers," which actually samples the Clash's "Armagideon Time"), and simple, chunky power pop (a cover of Sinead O'Connor's "Jump in the River") -- very effectively, with unerring melodic sense. The tunes are underpinned conceptually by the band's fiercely leftist politics, which often get just as muddled up as the former pronouncements of Joe Strummer and co. But the occasional sharp observation, especially those about the human cost of technology, seems to confirm that these guys' hearts are in the right place. And the music on Cyber Chords and Sushi Stories proves that their ears are, at least.

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