Meet the Plain White T's, the face of emo pop-punk in the year 2003. The young, punctuationally challenged Chicago-area quartet's been playing the all-ages circuit for a few years now in support of its 2001 CD Stop, on solid punk indie label Fearless Records. Older punk scenesters are sure to sneer at the radio-friendliness of the songs and the fresh-faced suburban teens who flock to Plain White T's shows and sing along to every word, but the band is actually a perfect gateway into this rock called punk. The Plain White T's are ideal for young mall punks who've outgrown Sum 41 and Blink 182's fart jokes but aren't yet ready for the Liars or Fugazi or whatever that crap is that old people listen to.
Absent any real mainstream exposure, the group attracts listeners by word of mouth and the time-honored tour-hard strategy -- a wise move that makes fans feel as if they've discovered "their" band themselves. The Plain White T's don't take this responsibility lightly: They pepper Stop with songs squarely aimed at their fanbase, songs that capture the highs and lows of growing up in suburban USA. Every track seems designed for endless replay, and each suits a different mood or emotion, from the nobody-likes-me-isms of "What If" to the first-love giddiness of "Fireworks." One song, "Penny (Perfect for You)," might be a how-to manual for potential stalkers. Although the Plain White T's music might not flaunt the guilt and pain and self-loathing of emo's first wave, it nonetheless traffics in real emotions.