Simple Plan's 2002 debut followed in the undeniably successful footsteps of blink-182. But while No Pads, No Helmets...Just Balls appropriated that trio's boundless energy and focus on melody, Simple Plan was sweet where blink was crass. "I'm Just a Kid," "The Worst Day Ever," "I'd Do Anything" -- their song titles could have doubled for after-school specials. The Plan's smiling approach to the punk-pop sound was wildly successful, and put them at the genre's top tier. But like their peers, 2004 finds them seeing its sonic limitations. Good Charlotte went for epic scope with their 2004 entry Chronicles of Life and Death, Sum 41's Chuck bared the band's newfound conscience over salvos derived from hardcore and metal, and Simple Plan's Still Not Getting Any... de-emphasizes punk-pop hyperactivity in favor of straightforward, well-crafted modern rock. "Do you ever feel out of place?" Pierre Bouvier sings in "Welcome to My Life," the album's first single. "Like somehow you don't belong/And no one understands you?" It returns to the band's central themes of growing up, getting by, and being part of something bigger. But the song's half-time arrangement and terrific chorus hook aren't too far from the slick, ringing pop of Avril Lavigne. "Thank You," "Jump," and "Promise" are of the energetic No Pads, No Helmets mold. But tracks like "Perfect World," "Everytime," and "Crazy" follow "Life"'s mid-tempo lead, and also tie Simple Plan's voice-of-the-kids stance to lyrics questioning the world around them. "The future is ours/It's in our hands," says the chorus of "One," and its big-guitar sound is matched to a fleet of surging violins. The shift to a more dynamically rich sound suits Simple Plan just fine. As Still Not Getting Any...'s title and rowdier moments prove, they can still bring the spunky crowd-pleasers. But it's the album's less raucous and more thoughtful side that shows Simple Plan's investment in the future. [Still Not Getting Any... was available in three different covers; it was also issued in a bonus-DVD format.] ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi

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