Plus-44: Pop, Not Punk, Gets the Royal Treatment

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Proof that pop-punk is more the former than the latter was in ample evidence Monday at the 9:30 club. Plus-44, the band formed by former Blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker, came to town to promote not only its new CD, "When Your Heart Stops Beating," but also T-shirts bearing a Bank of England note featuring a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

But rather than reveling in a Sex Pistols-like desecration of royalty, Hoppus said Plus-44 received permission from the British government to reproduce the image. "Leaders of foreign nations want to be on our T-shirts," he bragged with a smile.

The band and its instantly catchy melodies are highly likable -- as was Barker's one-handed drumming. The manic skins-smacker broke his right arm during a video shoot in September, and has rigged his drum kit to augment his snare hits with his left foot. He's already a great drummer, but this sideshow twist -- complete with Barker holding a cigarette in his cast-covered right hand while he bashed away with the left -- drove it home.

But Barker was the most interesting thing about Plus-44's live performance, which felt like that of a band still trying to find its footing. The quartet stuck to songs from its solid debut CD as well as a tight cover of the Descendents' "Christmas Vacation," an appealing if obvious nod to Plus-44's forefathers. While there wasn't a single Blink-182 tune in the set, most of Plus-44's songs are in the same spirit: adorable, cuddly pop-punk.

-- Christopher Porter

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