“Turn it up, we’re Saves The Day!”
Saves The Day have written a theme song for themselves. If that sentence makes you happy, you will love their latest endeavor, 9. The new album celebrates Saves The Day’s 20th anniversary as a band by delivering an incredibly meta album. 9 tells an oral history of the band that explores as much new territory as it merges the sounds of Through Being Cool and Daybreak. For new fans, this album might feel utterly alien and hard to access. However, 9 is an album aware that it is an album. But it is also a massive thank you to anyone who has taken the time to ever listen to Saves The Day at all.
This era of Saves The Day is a different beast than the band of the mid-2000’s. Singer/ songwriter Chris Conley is in a zen place that emanates positivity. Conley is stoked to be writing this record. After 20 years in the game, anyone even remotely familiar with pop punk knows who Saves The Day is, and Conley knows it. Every song reflects on two decades on the road, stories from the band’s start in the late 90’s and telling the fans directly how much they love them.
What makes 9 special is that the record knows what it is. It is essentially a mini double album that tells fans of Saves The Day “Thank you” every chance it gets. Each song is an experiment in rock that gives a small history of the band and is a message of appreciation for the support throughout Saves The Day’s career. The first eight songs are an album unto themselves, while closing song “29” is a 21-minute epic that takes a more surreal approach to the same topic.
Opening track, “Saves The Day”, is now the band’s official theme song, much in the same way that The Monkees have “(Theme from) The Monkees”. It’s remarkably on the nose, ridiculous and ungodly catchy. The first time you hear, “You know we love it when you sing along / Turn it up, we’re Saves The Day”, you want to roll your eyes. By the end of the song you’re singing along. Punctuated by a double layered guitar solo, “Saves The Day” feels like it was pulled from an updated version of Ups And Downs: Early Recordings And B-Sides and should have been opening up live shows for years by this point.
The rest of 9 plays as a mini oral history of the band. “Suzuki” sounds like a Sound The Alarm song ripped straight from Can’t Slow Down. With harsh bass and ripping guitars, Conley reflects, “On a black and red couch playing a burgundy Les Paul / I played on Can’t Slow Down so many years ago / Writing album number 9 right now”.
While some songs sound like B-sides from previous albums (“Suzuki”, “1997”), others forge utterly new ground. “Kerouac & Cassady” is a simple song with a melody reminiscent of The Black Keys. As the guitars rage from verse to chorus, Conley reflects on the drag of touring nonstop. “Groundhog Day on a loop on a five hour flight / Wednesday sleepwalk around backstage when 10:10 flashes in neon green / Drown in silver light before a four-hour show”.
Near the end of the record is “1997”, a song influenced by classic rock as much as it is Saves The Day’s most recent punk offerings. It’s a hybrid song that encapsulates the band’s 20-year legacy as Conley sings, “20 Years go by like pages from a calendar blowing in the wind / Under highway signs and flashing lights and fading stars and black nights / Days turn into years and seconds last longer than decades fall like sand”.
Album closer “29” is an epic, the likes of which is almost unseen in the genre today. Essentially seven songs combined into one piece, “29” is more or less the other eight songs of 9 combined into one surrealist piece. Not as direct as the rest of the album, “29” tells the same story as the first eight songs in a massive piece that presents 9 as a “classic” Saves The Day album.
“29” is a song that hides an insane amount of Easter eggs for fans of Saves The Day to look for. References to “Shoulder To The Wheel” and “Morning In The Moonlight” not withstanding, “29” feels like an updated version of “Daybreak” that follows the course of Saves The Day’s career.
The sound of “29” changes every three minutes. It’s something that creates a sense of typical pop punk songs while maintaining its own identity compared to the rest of the album. Retracing the rest of 9 step-by-step, “29” reflects, “Put the record on, blow the speaker up / Tear the dial off, push the pedal down, 99 on the 101 / Flip it over come on sing along”. “29” is reminiscent of songs like “Jessie & My Whetstone” where vague imagery creates a specific story that is pieced together by the listener. Conley describes incidents such as an almost fatal van accident, (“We were driving in my mother’s car / Chicago-Minnesota overnight / Over the frozen overpass over black ice”) or a rift between friends (“Turning all my friends into your allies / Might have been born in a crossfire hurricane / But don’t think twice it wasn’t yesterday”).
9 is an album that will mean a lot to longtime fans of Saves The Day, though may be hard to jump into for new fans. The album is a thank you note to fans that plot the biggest events in Saves The Day’s career over the last 20 years. It can be a bit on-the-nose as much as it is a dreamy summary of Saves The Day. Regardless, 9 is a true celebration of a band that doesn’t back away from the absurd, and has the confidence to make fun of its own legacy as much as it cherishes it.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and lives less than a mile from where he first saw Saves The Day, his first concert. This nostalgic zilch really dived face first into this album without concern for neighbors or loved ones. Please help.