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
- At Your Funeral
- See You
- Cars & Calories
- Certain Tragedy
- Jukebox Breakdown
- As Your Ghost Takes Flight
- All I’m Losing Is Me
- This Is Not an Exit
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