People In Planes’ American debut, “As Far As the Eye Can See,” proves that a knack for the experimental is all it takes to bring a decent pop record to the next level.Hailing from South Wales, PIP’s sound leans heavily on the same formula that fellow Brits Radiohead did on its early albums, “Pablo Honey” (1993) and “The Bends” (1995). The album is full of haunting verses and epic choruses that would be just as at home in a huge arena or in a small, hole-in-the-wall club. The band even shares Radiohead’s penchant for blending experimental electronic sounds and programmed drumbeats with stripped-down rock.
Both groups use the elements to generate a full, atmospheric sound that draws the listener into its depth rather than assaulting them with a wall of sound.
“As Far As the Eye Can See,” however, is far from a tame album.
Despite a mellow, hippie vibe, the band is not afraid to rock out. Tracks such as “Barracuda” and “Moth” feature Peter Roberts’ distorted, up-tempo guitar work and the soaring vocal stylings of Gareth Jones, transporting the guitarist/singer dynamic usually seen hard rock acts such as AC/DC or Guns N’ Roses to yet another genre – and once again, it just works.
The band’s Web site notes that most groups that attempt to blend rock and experimental elements come off very esoteric, and this is indeed the case – even among groups with a great deal of mainstream credibility such as Tool or System of a Down. PIP breaks that mold, generating an intelligent album with enough pop hooks to put the next big punk-pop band to shame.
“Token Trapped Woman” and the first radio single “If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode)” exemplify this dynamic as the vocals and the instruments trade off dominance in an aural call-and-response that gets stuck in your head for hours.
If you aren’t a fan of the band’s style right off, after a couple of spins you will be sold.
At the very least, you will probably be humming one or two of the songs for the next few weeks.