No doubt lovers of girl groups, indie rock, alt-country and Hollywood will be out in force at the Barrymore this Friday as M. Ward and waif-like actress-cum-indie songbird Zooey Deschanel bring their much-talked-about pop thing She & Him to town prior to a weekend appearance at the massive Virgin Mobile Festival in Baltimore. And that's fine. They have a pleasant enough sound.
But they aren't the only rising rock act worth catching this week. Another is the veteran Welsh band People in Planes, whose stylistic bows to progressive U.K. stadium fillers like Coldplay, Muse and, to a lesser extent, Radiohead make them a natural choice for sonic Anglophiles. Hirsute, super-cute, passion-addicted front guy Gareth Jones may be too much of a rock 'n' roll cliché for Thom Yorke fans, but the band's aptitude for uplifting, wall-of-sound arrangements and driving, dance-friendly rhythms is undeniable.
Naturally, all that full-on, people-pleasing energy comes at a price. Aside from the would-be hit from 2006 "If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode)" and the Joaquin Phoenix-directed video that supported it, much of People in Planes' output works best as throaty, fist-pumping background music. In large part, that's because up until now, at least, they haven't had a whole lot to say. This gooey dollop of self-pity from "Know By Now," a tune off the soon-to-be-released CD The Horizon, is typical: "Without you it's nothin'/It's just a room with a view/And all these things we've collected/Just remind me of you."
But, hey, who listens to the words when the room's reverberating with echoed guitars, gated drums and P.A.-filling synths? (Yup, that's a rhetorical question.)