Saves the Day – Stay What You Are

Saves the Day
Stay What You Are

Well, I suppose we should have all seen this coming. Saves The Day debuted in 1998 with an album’s worth of straightforward punk known as Can’t Slow Down. They followed it up in 1999 with the more emo-ish Through Being Cool. Then came Sorry I’m Leaving, the cutesy little EP of acoustic material released in 2000, complete with a cover of Modern English’s “I Melt With You.” So, it isn’t completely surprising that their newest effort, Stay What You Are, appears to be a full-blown pop record. The TRL crowd will eat it up, if given the chance, but long-time Saves The Day fans may not be as thrilled.

“This song will become the anthem of your underground,” Chris Conley sings in the opening line of the album, causing you to either chuckle or cringe. Fortunately, the line translates into the bouncy, excellent opener, “At Your Funeral.” “See You” follows as one of the few tracks that even vaguely resembles anything punk, before the pace is quickly slowed down again by the catchy “Cars & Calories,” then sped back up with “Certain Tragedy.” “Jukebox Breakdown,” “Freakish” and “As Your Ghost Takes Flight” come one after another, all displaying tight musicianship from David Soloway, Eben D’Amico, Bryan Newman, and Ted Alexander, but all falling victim to Conley’s sometimes downright dumb lyrics. “If you’ve got a quarter, you can stick it in my neck and I’ll sing whatever song you want, for whatever mood you’re in. Isn’t that what you expect? I can sing you to sleep,” he sings in “Jukebox Breakdown.” Sappy teens will label Conley’s lyrics as “beautiful,” “honest” and “heartfelt,” but though his vocal abilities may be excellent, he has some growing up to do as far as those lyrics are concerned.

“Nightingale” is an absolutely beautiful love song, even if it is a little blatantly cheesy. The thing is, it sounds like it could easily be plastered all over modern rock radio, right up there with Vertical Horizon and the rest of the disposable pop bands teenage girls turn to mush over. “All I’m Losing is Me” follows in a rather lackluster fashion, as does “This is Not an Exit.” Finally, “Firefly” kicks off with some of the punk sound you spend the entire album waiting for, just before it slows back down again for Conley to ponder, “To me you are the light from a light bulb that breaks sometimes, and the tender warmth inside is released into my life, and it smothers me in flames that lick and scorch my face.”

Though the album is certainly a step away from their previous work, it doesn’t seem likely to win many fans over the age of 16. The sappy pop that stagnates the radio these days seems to have found its way to the boys homes in New Jersey, making them one of the closest things indie rock has to a boy band. The melodies are often lovely, and there is no shortage of musicianship, but the album just feels a little lifeless. Produced by Rob Schnapf, who has worked with such big names as Foo Fighters, Guided By Voices, and Elliott Smith, the album has a neat and shiny polish to it, smoothing the band’s edge down even more.

In mid July, Stay What You Are debuted at number 100 on the Billboard charts. These boys are going to be big, and it seems like that is what they want. The album is going to disappoint some fans of the band’s early days, but it will help Saves The Day move from clubs to stadiums, which seems like the direction they are driving in.