No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls is the debut album from French-Canadian pop-punkers Simple Plan. The album, since its release in 2002, has made its mark within the pop-punk-rock genre as one of the shining examples of the genre’s resurgence in the early-2000s. How does Balls stand on its own years after its release? How does it continue to reflect on the genre’s continued popularity?
No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls is, at its heart, juvenile and pubescent in the best of possible of ways.
One look at the lyrics found within Balls showcases the album’s snapshot of adolescent life. The album’s second track, The Worst Day Ever, brims with teenage angst beginning with its title. Further into the song, lyrics like “Yesterday was the worst day every/And tomorrow won’t be better”, though initially shallow, play at the simplicity within the song’s progression.
Another song, God Must Hate Me, takes similar stabs at the album’s lamentations over self-worth. “I guess it’s no use/I’m screwing up every little thing” sets a revolving theme within the album of perception in the face of one’s self-image, a theme that’s more maturely handled within Perfect. The closing track on the album, Perfect blends the adolescent lyrics with somber powerhouse riffs and a killer, if not mellow bridge.
There’s something to be said for the production on this album, as well. From the first track onwards, the bass shines throughout the mix, moreso than other pop-punk albums of Simple Plan’s caliber. Riffs found in tracks like You Don’t Mean Anything also deserve credit for their legitimate catchiness – had they been performed by other bands (say, for example, blink-182), it’d prove to be just as original and catchy.
At the end of the day, Balls stands on two legs as a prime work of the early-2000s punk revival, even with its friendly vibes and often lazy lyrics. Though critics have found ease in lashing at Simple Plan for their style, there’s no argument that Simple Plan haven’t made that style their own.
No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls has left behind a perplexing legacy, if anything else.
While Simple Plan hasn’t seen the successes of some of its pop-punk counterparts, the band’s debut album proved to be a foundation within the punk-rock revivalist movement of the early-2000s. Releasing in the shadows of larger bands like Good Charlotte and Blink-182, Balls left behind some of the most classic pop-punk anthems that still resonate within the genre today.
In particular, I’m Just a Kid and Perfect, two of the album’s singles, have established a legacy as some of the most well-known pop-punk songs ever, even among listeners who don’t necessarily know of Simple Plan.
The messages within those songs tie in to Simple Plan’s ideals as a whole.
“Most people we meet are not happy. You walk around at shows and meet kids, and most people don’t seem to be happy with where they are no matter how great a family they have, or how great they’re doing in school, or how much money their family has,” says drummer Chuck Comeau. “We have a society full of people that want something more, and they just don’t know what it is.”
Despite the album’s success as a double-platinum album, Simple Plan hasn’t let Balls hinder their aspirations. “I think a band needs to change a bit their style of music, you don’t want to be always doing the same thing,” said frontman Pierre Bouvier. “But at the same time, it is important to be faithful to what we are and our sound.”
Simple Plan’s newest album, Taking One For The Team, released in January of 2016. The band’s fifth album features the same lineup since the band’s inception – Bouvier on vocals, Comeau on drums, Jeff Stinco and Sébastien Lefebvre on guitar, and David Desrosiers on bass.
Next week’s review: Alkaline Trio’s “Maybe I’ll Catch Fire”