A Day to Remember is pissed off. This probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, since the band has made a massive career off of the angry chugga-chugga breakdowns and ambiguously aggressive lyrics that have come to define what is currently considered the metalcore genre. In a lot of ways, A Day to Remember helped shape and mold that very formula that has been carbon copied relentlessly.
But this time, it’s different. This time, A Day to Remember is pissed off for all of the right reasons. This time it feels genuine.
That’s not to say that they weren’t somehow genuine or honest in the past, but there’s only so many “Nobody takes us seriously!” and “Everyone is against us!” songs that one can handle from a band that an outrageous number of people seem to love. If a messy lawsuit with their label, Victory Records, and the real possibility of the band’s career dissolving before their eyes is what it took to light a fire under the Ocala, Fla. band, then so be it.
What resulted from the fallout is the best album of the band’s career.
Common Courtesy is surely an A Day to Remember album and it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. What it does do is add a touch of authenticity, a dash of aggressive motive and a lot of maturity to an act that could have easily gone stale. Instead, the band produced an extremely focused and diverse album that will not only please their current fan base, but win over a few of the rest of us in the process.
Produced with the help of Andrew Wade and Chad Gilbert and released completely by themselves, Common Courtesy starts off with a full dose of the A Day to Remember sound you’re familiar with, turned to 11 and polished to near perfection. “City of Ocala” and “Right Back at it Again” are obvious choices to open the record, providing a punch of aggression and melody and even featuring the tongue-in-cheek humor the band seems to pull off so effortlessly.
The real treat begins during the quiet bridge in “Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail”, when a suddenly somber and mature Jeremy McKinnon bears his struggles and fears. When McKinnon sings, “I reserve my right to be uncomfortable / I reserve my right to be afraid / I make mistakes and I am humbled / Every step of the way” it’s a welcome breath of fresh, honest air.
It doesn’t stop there. Tracks like “Best of Me” and “Life @ 11” allow McKinnon to reflect even further upon his doubts and uncertainties. The band even pulls off the elusive believable ballad with “I Surrender”, a track that throws the metalcore handbook out the window in favor of a truly appealing and listenable alt-rock song. In fact, the softer moments prove to be some of the best on Common Courtesy.
Not to worry, there’s still plenty of head-bangable tracks like “Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way” and “The Document Speaks for Itself” that allow the band to chug out the their feelings towards Victory Records and will surely be mosh pit favorites. The fact that these moments are confined and appropriate is proof enough that this band is expanding its palate and branching into new and welcome territory while not completely losing what made them appealing to so many in the first place.
It’s hard to be mad at A Day to Remember at this point. They fought the man and won (for the meantime), released their best album yet (by themselves, with little promotion and no physical copies) and managed to expand their sound in welcome and unexpected ways. Admit it. You enjoy Common Courtesy. As well you should. Let’s hope that there’s more where this came from.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.