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Saves The Day
Stay What You Are
Vagrant Records

Saves The Day’s latest record, Stay What You Are, is perfectly adequate, angst-ridden pop-punk. This is STD’s third full-length release and their debut on Vagrant Records, home to many of today’s best pop-punk outfits. Unfortunately, this release pales in comparison to some of the stronger bands on Vagrant’s roster (Alkaline Trio, Face To Face, Dashboard Confessional, No Motiv, and The Get Up Kids, to name a few). The songwriting is weaker and the musicianship of lower quality than most of the bands on the same circuit as STD.

Boldly, Stay What You Are opens with a quiet, guitar-and-vocals intro. The sparse instrumentation and vocal ambition, however, only serve to spotlight Chris Conley’s shortcomings as a singer. Conley employs many of the mannerisms preferred by many of the genre’s vocalists (frequent scoops and bends, a raw vulnerability, the sound of a man with a fist clenched earnestly over his heart), but he doesn’t quite have the pipes for it, so his notes seem to come most often from his sinuses and throat, with no lungs behind them. This weakness persists throughout the record and detracts from even the strongest tracks on the record.

One of the highlights of the record is "Cars & Calories", which contains beautiful vocal harmonies that suggest the band might be more successful abandoning altogether the punk edges of its guitars and lyrical content and embracing the alt-pop aesthetic they seem to execute more convincingly. "Jukebox Breakdown" opens with a great guitar riff that returns at each chorus, but the rest of the track disintegrates into a rather facile punk-pop forgettable, with failed literary conceit as its lyrical centerpiece. The falsetto line in the chorus of "Freakish" is a welcome change from Conley’s prevailing lyrical style. "As Your Ghost Takes Flight" contains some surprisingly violent lyrical content of the sort that often brings bands like Slayer to Tipper’s attention, but the music is far too ordinary and non-threatening to raise anyone’s hackles. The album’s final track, "Firefly", is perhaps the most successful. It is perfectly palatable pop-punk that could stand side by side with some of the genre’s best. This time, Conley’s lyrics aren’t trying too hard to be literary and meaningful, and the rest of the band drives forward with the youthful enthusiasm and elementalism that one expects. Halfway through, however, the tempo slows and the song takes an ill-advised turn back toward bland poppiness, as Conley’s lyrics turn back toward half-baked metaphors. Alas…

Overall, the impact of Stay What You Are is minimal. Certainly, not the worst record in recent memory, Stay What You Are is, at best, innocuous. Even for its brief 33-minute duration, this record would not hold my attention. My mind wandered several times, and most often was brought back by being annoyed —not intrigued— by the music. If your record collection is lacking in the annoying-yet-innocuous category, Stay What You Are will fill that hole effectively.

Eryc Eyl

Track Listing:

  1. At Your Funeral
  2. See You
  3. Cars & Calories
  4. Certain Tragedy
  5. Jukebox Breakdown
  6. Freakish
  7. As Your Ghost Takes Flight
  8. Nightingale
  9. All I’m Losing Is Me
  10. This Is Not an Exit
  11. Firefly

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