Plans Within Plans

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Joining the pantheon of similar-minded, enduring bands like Bad Religion, Green Day, and NOFX, pop-punk trio MxPx mark their 20th anniversary with the energized Plans Within Plans. The lineup of Bremerton, Washington fellas -- singer/bassist Mike Herrera, guitarist Tom Wisniewski, and drummer Yuri Ruley -- hold steady and pick up where their last studio album, Secret Weapon, left off. And though it's been five years since that record's release, the sound is as seamless as a couple of long separated friends recently reunited. But of course a lot can still change in five years, so in contrast to Secret Weapon, Plans Within Plans finds the trio growing past the girl trouble/post-college era angst/scene-reporting inspiration pool, instead addressing the plight of the working stiff with the bass grooving "The Times," searching for inspiration on the anthemic, minor chord-driven "Nothing's Gonna Change," and of course looking back at those earlier years but remaining hopeful about the future in "Best of Times," a reflective midtempo rocker that would make good mixtape company alongside the Maine's "Like We Did (Windows Down)" from 2011. Engineered by Herrera and mixed and mastered by Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton (who also lent his musical chops to "Far Away" and "In the Past"), Plans Within Plans moves from MxPx's straight-ahead punk roots (the fiery first single "Far Away" is probably the best pick for longtime fans) to thrashy skatepunk ("Inside Out") and poppier moments (empowering opener "Aces Up"), joining together lyrics that show the band at their most mature -- look no further than the final lines of "Best of Times": "'Cause we're growing up and all that it takes/Is looking forward to better days." Ultimately, Plans Within Plans manages to stay true to MxPx's scruffy roots while gracefully transitioning into a new age bracket, especially relatable for fans who've been along for the ride with them for years.

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