Published Oct 24, 2018They may not have invented the genre, but few bands have been as influential in solidifying an identity for emo and pop punk as Saves the Day. Their first two records, Can't Slow Down and Through Being Cool, captured the essence of what it felt like (and still does), to cross the bridge from adolescence to adulthood, embracing every ounce of melodramatic teenaged emotion and performed with sort of innocence that only feels authentic in those informative years — when we're all just trying to "figure it out."
The critically acclaimed followup, Stay What You Are, refined those sounds. Fast-forward two decades and these albums aren't only resonating, they're staples in the punk hybrid world. Like most things, however, youth fades and with it goes some things we wish wouldn't.
Twenty years in, Saves the Day have given us 9; told from singer Chris Conley's perspective, it's an oral history of Saves the Day. The album's nine songs cover everything from the band's origin to Conley's supposed self-awakening. Yet in telling this story of Saves the Day, he and his bandmates have created something that's extremely un-Saves the Day. 9 doesn't feel right.
Despite being the only member from the band's golden years, Conley's lyrics and vocals are the boldest missteps on 9. Contained in what sounds like a grown adult emulating the vocal tonality of an angsty teen, are even stranger lyrical approaches. To put it plainly, there's something off-putting about hearing a veteran musician sing "We wanna see you at our next show," as if begging us to please, please, please stick around.
While there are snippets of instrumental depth on tracks like "Rendezvous," the only song that feels natural is the unnaturally long album closer, "29." Clocking in at nearly 22 minutes, this song singlehandedly achieves what the entire album was intended to, but in a way that's nuanced, mature and not so blatantly obvious.
If Saves the Day took this approach on the whole record, Conley's growth as both musician and individual wouldn't only feel more believable, it'd be a story with the potential to come to life. Instead, these are songs from someone stuck reminiscing about the glory days, who won't let the dream die. Sure, sometimes a trip down memory lane is needed. But pop-punk isn't forever and that's just fine. (Equal Vision)