I feel like I should hand this review over to a professional magician for their take.
There’s music -- great music -- being released every day. I have an inbox full of excellent new music as I sit here pecking out words. But, very rarely do I get something that seems to thrive outside the realm of music. Is this self-titled debut from Plush a set of thirteen songs produced by the great Johnny K and performed by brilliant young ladies with immense talent? Yeah, sure it is, and I’m going to talk about the ins and outs of some of that here, but it’s just more than all of that. There is an inexplicable magic to all of it. I think the best way to explain it is to imagine yourself on a path through a bland forest full of ordinary trees, and as the path suddenly turns to your left you encounter a world of storybook waterfalls, intense colors, and exotic wild animals. This is the world of Plush.
Plush was formed over the initial COVID lockdown and is a band of young girls with talents that are almost immeasurable. At the center of this band is Moriah Formica. Anyone that knows that name has just understood the whole magic thing I was talking about. Formica has been writing songs, singing, and playing her guitar since her early teens and she’s just not one of us. There are human beings that seem to simply transcend all of the normal boundaries of human existence. Like Tom Brady or Michael Jordan in sports, Formica seems to do things that are just impossible. I will call her one of the greatest voices of our time without even hesitating. I’m also confident that anyone that listens to this record will be anxious to board that bandwagon. Formica also wrote the bulk of the song material here and it’s brilliant. Almost all of the song themes here have strong elements of human emotion. There are songs of love, hate, rejection, acceptance, and salvation. When these inspired emotions interact with the intense musicianship the results are utterly fantastic.
Let’s talk about the musicianship.
Bella Perron is a 19-year-old Berklee student that plays like a seasoned veteran. Perron was chosen for this band after she responded to a “looking for a guitarist” post that Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale shared on her social media, and now she’ll be touring with Hale as Plush opens shows for a huge Halestorm and Evanescence tour. You see what I’m saying? Magic.
The brutally heavy riffs and tasteful solos on this record show a professional restraint. Nothing is overplayed and everything is done in service to the song. That’s not always something that is common with younger bands, and guitarists in particular. Many bands feel they need the guitarist to run up and down the fretboard and give their best Eddie Van Halen/Yngwie Malmsteen impression. More often than not, the song gets lost. Perron and Plush are always playing to the song like a veteran act. With that said, I would’ve liked to hear more of Perron’s tasty soloing. There’s enough to whet the palette on this record, but I found myself salivating for a bit more. If the band was going for the “keep ‘em wanting more” effect – mission accomplished!
A huge part of the Plush sound comes from the bombastic energy of their rhythm section. Bassist Ashley Suppa, the daughter of former Alice In Chains guitarist Mike Suppa, is a sledgehammer. She is often called “the female Cliff Burton” and it’s no wonder. She has a bludgeoning power that drives all of the heaviest riffs of the record. There is a throbbing pulse to this music, and it all starts with the solid foundation of Suppa’s bass and ends with the punishing precision of Brooke Colucci on drums.
Colucci is yet another supernatural force that walks among us. She has a delicate beauty that only few have, but she is a ferocious beast with a pair of sticks in her hands. Each and every hit is placed with precision. Like Perron on guitar, Colucci doesn’t overplay here. She does exactly what the song calls for and plays with a patience that’s absolutely stunning. Colucci and Suppa are connected on a whole new level. It’s like listening to a four-part harmony vocal. If you can hear any of the individual voices you’re doing it wrong. It should come out as one voice, and that’s what Suppa and Colucci accomplish here. They are one extremely powerful voice.
Sure, they can all play, but without the songs it wouldn’t matter.
These songs are very well written and deliver on their intentions. There are songs like the first single, “Hate,” that intend to be in your face and they have a confrontational feel. I feel like I went ten rounds with Mike Tyson after listening to “Hate” ….and I won. There are so many great heavy songs on this record. “Athena” and “Hate” are the first two singles from the record, and they put that heaviness on full display. Other tracks that punch you in the gut are “I Don’t Care,” “Champion,” and “Will Not Win.”
Perhaps my favorite track on the record, “Found A Way” has an inspiring sound that is as uplifting as the lyrics. It’s a song that talks about pulling yourself out of a dark place in life to find hope and relief. My whole body tingles every single time I hear this track. The heaviness of the music stays intact while still being a bright positive light. Most bands would turn a song like this into something you pour all over your pancakes, but Plush keeps its fist clenched while it assertively grabs you and lifts you up.
When Plush does show its tender side it’s just as powerful. “Sober” is one of the best power ballads you’ll ever hear. It has delicate vocals, an acoustic-like guitar part, and even the sounds of a cello, but it also has the Suppa/Colucci thunder. This song has to be a single somewhere down the road. It’s a great exhibition of what this band is capable of. “Don’t Say That” is a song that does much of what “Sober” does, but maybe even more dramatically. The soft side of Plush truly reaches its full potential with a song called “Sorry,” though. This just might be Formica’s greatest recorded vocal performance. When she is wailing “Sorry doesn’t change a thing, Sorry doesn’t kill the pain, Sorry doesn’t make it okay. Sorry doesn’t make it fine, Sorry doesn’t fix the inside,” you feel the pain. I still clench my fists and weep when I listen to this song. It’s one of the most powerful things you’ll ever hear.
One of the things that may get lost upon the casual listener’s ear is the backing vocals on this record. Ashley Suppa is an excellent singer herself, and along with Bella Perron they create a vocal landscape that kind of skates around Formica’s incredible lead. Listen deeply to “Found A Way,” “Better Off Alone,” and “Why Do I Even Try” for starters. There’s a depth in these songs that you might not discover the first time through.
This is the beginning of an era. I seriously think this band is going to change the face of music. Look for pre-teen girls wanting to become drummers. Look for people saying that “Found A Way” saved their lives. Look for a plethora of young girls to form hard rock bands. The impact of this band reaches beyond the boundaries of music. This is a band that could very well bring hard rock back to the masses.
Wouldn’t THAT be magic….