PLANS AND APOLOGIES Torn Out Pages From The Middle Agez (AAS)

tornoutpagezfromthemiddleages.jpg (39234 bytes)Plans And Apologies are a Derby sextet/septet (depending on whether you believe the booklet or the press release) whose members range in age from 17 to 20, a fact that makes their utterly charming and disarming debut album all the more laudable. If we really have to squash them into some kind of inappropriately restrictive pigeonhole, they're somewhere between "Parachutes"-era Coldplay and early Wedding Present, wordy, witty songs of love with melodic sophistication and a cackling, crackling bite.

"Poetry" immediately sets out their stall, impressively eloquent ("I miss you with three esses every day") yet nervily unsettling (all those not-quite-Nirvana quiet/loud stop/start bits sound impressively fresh, nothing like the kind of hackneyed angst perpetrated by the depressingly generic likes of Staind and their ilk), closing with a near minute-long blast of static and surface noise that Godspeed You! Black Emperor would stretch out to double album proportions. "Secret By Design" follows, a charming tale of boy not quite meeting girl, punctuated by slightly crude but effective samples of birdsong and distant small children. Which isn’t to say it's all jelly and ice cream around these parts, the band working themselves into a seething frenzy at the close of "Save, Save, Save".

The folksier strummings of "Close Your Eyes And Wish You Were…" remind me, perhaps erroneously, of the Floyd's underrated soundtrack for the film "More", having the same dreamy, heavy-lidded quality…well, until all that pesky yelling and shouting kicks off again. "Self Help" is an intricately knitted piece, with some ferocious but flat-sounding drumming in back, scorching feedback blasts, jazzy interludes, even something of a 2-Tone/Madness homage towards the close. It's all over the place, but no worse for it: Plans And Apologies seem to have an intuitive knack for knowing exactly how much they can pile onto a song without causing it to collapse into a heap of random musical rubble. "Ginger Jimmy Jackson" closes this refreshingly brief blast of an album. Possibly the highlight, it's an eight minute blowout that eschews all the clever frippery (Frippery?) that has gone before and battens down the hatches for a glorious, controlled meshing of power, melancholy and melody that the younger David Gedge would be justifiably proud of.

That all this niceness has come from a band so young is cause for some small celebration. "Torn Out Pages From The Middle Agez" is a lovely album that exercises the head as much as the heart and feet, from a band who thoroughly deserve the success that, in a just and perfect world, would soon be theirs.