Picks and Pans Review: The Greenhouse Effect
It happens all the time. Unknown rockers track down their famous idols, hoping to find help breaking into the industry. But the scenario rarely ends as happily as a 1984 encounter between Joe Struminer, then of the Clash, and the members of Plan B.
Strummer's no fool. When he heard the punk-inspired rock of this West Berlin quartet, he hired them as the opening act of the Clash's German tour.
Six years and three European albums later, Plan B's very belated debut U.S. release makes it easy to understand Strummer's decision. As one of the best bands to come out of Germany in years, Plan B finds fertile ground in the rocky turf left fallow by the 1986 demise of the Clash.
These Berliners can't quite match the great radio singles that launched the Clash from underground to mainstream, yet Plan B produces the same kind of earthshaking guitars, sing-along choruses and satiric political lyrics.
Ultimately The Greenhouse Effect (named for a London recording studio) burns through the layer of '80s nostalgia with its own original style, brought on by energetic guitar playing and topical lyrics. One song's jaunty chorus recycles a T-shirt slogan spun off the Star Trek series, "Beam me up, Scotty!," and gives it a vulgar twist. In another, lead singer Johnny Haeussler parodies the simple-minded truths of glamour magazines: "Every second schoolgirl thinks to be a feminist/ Is to include a packet of condoms on her shopping list."
With clipped British accents and a facile command of the English language and culture, the drummer and three guitarists in Plan B make the cultural barriers come down faster than the Berlin Wall. They also jump light-years ahead of most other continental bands, because they understand that good rock requires a playful attitude. In "The Class of '89," Haeussler chants to a heavy beat: "If you can't dance, party or jump to it/ Put some wax in your ears and stay in bed." Even Joe Strummer couldn't have said it better. (RCA)
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