Victory Lap: Saves The Day’s Celebratory Tour

“We wanna see you at our next show!”

Saves The Day was the first concert I ever went to. With a car full of people, we drove from Indiana to downtown Chicago to see the show on a school night. The energy and passion Chris Conley emanated had us talking about the show all the way home and for weeks after. Saves The Day were young and on the tail end of the their tour in support of In Reverie. Since then, I have seen them touring at least once during each album cycle.

Having just released 9, Saves The Day are on a victory lap. Celebrating 20 years as an incredibly influential band, Chris Conley is enjoying himself and looking back at his career on stage without the pressure of still ‘having to make it.’

Conley is allowing himself to take a step back, maybe for the first time in his career. Prior to this tour, I had only seen him standing in front of the mic, smiling while he sang and wailed on the guitar. Saves The Day have always been the ‘standard’ rock band to me. Though he doesn’t run across the stage causing general chaos, Conley has always commanded the audience through nothing but music. However, this tour is the result of Conley’s two decades of devotion and hard work. Aside from a few songs, he is mostly removing himself from the guitar this time. Instead, he is opting to sing and dance to the music that made him a legend. And he deserves it.

Kevin Devine

Following Conley’s cue, the opening sets were stripped down bands. An Horse opened the night as a two-piece that utterly destroyed the Bottom Lounge. Consisting of drummer Damon Cox and guitarist Kate Cooper, the Australian duo made enough noise for a complete four-person entourage. Sharing vocal duties, Cox and Cooper ripped through a set of impressively melodic indie rock. Including their new single, “Get Out Somehow”, they ended their set with a cameo from Kevin Devine on bass, offering a quick preview of his set.

Kevin Devine has been a big name in the indie scene for a long time. I’ve never been familiar with his music, but seeing him live proved why he has persisted on the scene. Equal parts indie star and rock icon, Devine confidently raged through political songs alone on stage. Pulsing through his electric guitar, Devine screamed, crooned and broke down in melodic guitar riffs to rapt applause. Finding an audience in politically motivated songs, Devine proved to be one of the leading solo acts in the scene by skirting the traditional topics of heartbreak and relationships. The passion and intensity of his performance was something that could only be accomplished by someone performing something they believe in.

Saves The Day’s Chris Conley

Saves The Day took the stage with five members for the first time that I have seen. With a new touring guitarist joining lead guitarist Arun Bali, Chris Conley took charge of singing and just enjoying the music. Sporting dark sunglasses and a jacket, Conley opened with his signature anthem, “At Your Funeral” before launching into a series of newer songs including “Suzuki”, “Xenophobic Blind Left Hook” and “Get Fucked Up”.

Taking at least one song from every album, the band didn’t lean as far into the pop punk scene that they helped create as much as they explored the continuing evolution of their music. Saves The Day’s setlist was a sample of their greatest hits that roared through classic punk rock and modern rock. At this point in their career, Saves The Day have left their mark on the punk scene forever and influenced multiple generations of artists. Nothing cemented this legacy more than the crowd watching the band.

Saves the Day

With the Bottom Lounge mostly full, Conley announced that the band’s seminal album Through Being Cool was 19 years old that day. And while they played some of the best songs from that record (“Shoulder To The Wheel”, “Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots”), they didn’t dwell on it. Each time a classic song like “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” or Stay What You Are’s “Freakish” came on, the younger generation began excitedly crowd surfing and opening a pit. However, fans who have followed the band for years are still showing up, just as excited as ever. As the opening lines of “Side By Side” from 9 started, a bald man in his 40’s literally threw his arms up in the air and shouted in joy.

Saves The Day are undoubtedly one of the most important bands in punk rock today. Their fanbase has grown with them and continued to expand with younger crowds throughout the years. Chris Conley has managed to navigate the harsh landscape of music and managed to stay relevant to the point that he can finally enjoy the fruits of his labor by just listening to his own music and enjoying it the same way his own fans do – by singing along and dancing until the next album.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 really just… ate far too much macaroni.

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Review: Saves The Day – 9

“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.

You can buy or stream 9 on Apple Music.

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.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – Saves The Day

In 2013, I was brand new to Chicago. It was a scary move, but I thought I had made it for the right reasons. My first job here was a painfully boring temp job that left me feeling remote and empty, even compared to my new friends who worked menial jobs. Feeling rejected from an avalanche of unanswered job applications, I would drive alone as the summer sun baked the feeling of regret into my head under the glare of expressway signs, and I wondered how it would ever get better.

You can buy or stream Saves the Day on Apple Music.

When Saves The Day’s self-titled album released that fall, I was ready. I had backed its PledgeMusic campaign earlier that year, listening to the first single, “Ain’t No Kind of Love”, an energetic song about a breakup, with a pure hunger. The chorus was exactly what I was going through, as Chris Conley sang, “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again”.

I truly anticipated an album from one of my first musical loves that would let me bask in my oncoming depression without guilt. Instead, Saves The Day unexpectedly lifted my spirits.

For almost 20 years, Chris Conley was a flag bearer of the emo movement. He never shied away from diving headfirst into the fragility of the human spirit. The three albums before Saves the Day were a trilogy that tackled depression and the depths it can actually go. His songwriting is morbid, but captivatingly catchy.

With the release of Saves The Day, an album bearing the name of the band itself, it felt like a shock to the system to discover that it was a positive album. Despite being released at the start of fall, it was a pure summer album, complete with cover art of a bright orange grapefruit. Similar to how In Reverie stunned fans with a change in style, Saves The Day was a full thematic shift. Instead of glorifying loneliness, Saves The Day is an extremely loose ‘concept’ album about two people falling in love through a chance encounter outside of a bar and reflecting on the good and bad of their lives after years of happy marriage.

Saves The Day was the first album by the band that wasn’t burdened with expectation. There just wasn’t a need to compete with the emo wave of the early 2000’s or attempt to recover ground after the backlash of a stylistic change. Instead, it used the harsh guitars of the Daybreak trilogy of albums to forge a new identity.

After 15 years, to hear a real love song from Conley felt extraordinarily out of place. This was someone who wrote songs like “The End” from Sound The Alarm (“I’m a danger to myself / Always blaming someone else”). But here he was, singing “Beyond All of Time”. It’s the first slower song on the record, with an enchanting chorus of, “Together forever tonight / I’ll always be right by your side, tonight / I love you beyond all of time”.

The true peak of the album is the dual lineup of “Verona” and “Ring Pop”. “Verona” tackles the struggles of a relationship. The verses hint at the fights and sacrifices a couple have to go through against harsh guitars and a depressing drum beat, only to launch into a gloriously hopeful chorus of, “After the end when he tells her he loves her / She promises not to let go / They hold on to hope”.

Immediately following this is “Ring Pop”, arguably the happiest pop punk song of all time. The song radiates with a sappy and childlike wonder of love, and caps off the theme of the record in an incredibly uplifting arc unlike anything else Saves The Day has ever written. “Born on opposite coasts for the two of us both / Knowing in 20 years we would not be alone / Might have made us a pair of zen-like two-year-olds / With a couple of ring pops, no need to propose”.

Saves The Day drastically helped curve my depression for some time as I struggled to adjust to living in Chicago. If Chris Conley, a poster child of dark songs, could find happiness, so could I. That is also when I finally noticed the last line of the chorus from “Ain’t No Kind of Love” that I had somehow missed on each listen since the song was released. Suddenly, the album made sense, as did my outlook on where I was going. “For right now, to now make it through the long day, is okay / Tomorrow, when anything can happen, try again / Until then keep on breathing / The love you long to know is within”.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 killed a spider with a broom while writing this. He is brave and a hero.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – In Reverie

In the early 2000’s, Saves The Day were the poster child of the emo scene. Stay What You Are had set the scene on fire early into the new millennium. With expectations high, In Reverie defied them in every possible way. And fans hated it. Singer Chris Conley’s new, high pitch vocals caught everyone off guard. The dreamy lyrics were a far stretch from the desperate lyricism of the band’s past records. Fifteen years later, In Reverie is held in much higher regard within Saves The Day’s body of work, and, unfortunately, largely forgotten.

You can stream In Reverie on Spotify.

Both Through Being Cool and Stay What You Are seemed like required listening for anyone developing a sense of music. Aggressive pop punk and restrained rock, respectively, they showed alternating sides of the same band and a maturity in songwriting that few bands successfully manage. Especially after Stay What You Are, arguably one of the most popular albums of the time, the wait for Saves The Day’s next record was excruciating.

In Reverie felt different right away. It was the first album cover to feature a painting instead of a high school inspired photograph. The CD itself was a bright, tangerine orange. Before even pressing ‘Play’, it warned you to be prepared for something new.

“Anywhere With You”, one of the few singles from the album that remains a live staple, broke out with harsh, fuzzed guitars as the back drop for Chris Conley’s new vocal style. In retrospect, it’s not that big of a jump. However, at the time of release, it almost sounded like a brand new singer had taken over. Not nearly as nasally, Conley was crisper and more relaxed as his pitch edged upwards.

In Reverie also marked the beginning of the modern Saves The Day ‘sound.’ It established the tight melodic pop song formula that would become the staple format of the band moving forward. While it would take the next album, Sound The Alarm, to firmly mark the occasion with aggressive guitars, In Reverie experimented with more relaxed songwriting.

Songs like “Monkey” played with loud and soft melodies, refusing to lean too far one way or the other. “Wednesday The Third” rediscovered the dark guitars, but let Conley’s vocals explore the musical scale and harmonize off of himself.

While other albums would return to the pained existential lyricism of the band’s first few albums, In Reverie played around a bit more. While there are certainly songs pertaining to the pains of relationships, (“Anywhere With You”) or emotional turmoil, (“In My Waking Life”), there were many more songs with fanciful lyrics that don’t seem to hold much meaning other than being fun to sing.

“Morning In The Moonlight”, one of the few absolute jams on the album, delves deep into this aspect. There’s little to take away from the song other than the lyrics are just a blast to sing out loud. “Madness ensues, swimming in ocean blues / The dream-dripping sky covers my insides / The moonlight in the morning sun sends shivers over my skin / The memories are slowly slipping and I’m sailing against the wind”.

It took a few years for In Reverie to actually be discussed positively. My friend group largely ignored the album until after the release of Sound The Alarm. Conley himself stated it was his favorite record in various interviews, but acknowledged that critical reaction to it had caused a course correction. Sound The Alarm and Under the Boards were largely written as a response to In Reverie. The guitars immediately became more aggressive and the lyrics grew darker. It was a stylistic approach that appealed to the imagery of past songs, like “As Your Ghost Takes Flight”.

Looking back on it, In Reverie isn’t as drastically different from Saves The Day’s discography as it sounded upon release. It seems to fit into their body of work musically better than Stay What You Are in many ways, even if it still stands out lyrically. Many of the same people who initially hated the record now regard it as their favorite album. However, it still remains the black sheep of Saves The Day’s history. Songs from it rarely seem to be played live, and it seems rarely discussed. It’s a shame, because the album is such a cornerstone of the last 15 years of the band’s history.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 just dropped two eggs on the floor, accidentally creating the worst breakfast this side of the Mississip’.

Reflecting On: Say Anything – In Defense of the Genre

In many ways, In Defense of the Genre is the absolute time capsule of pop punk in 2007. The sounds spanning the double album run the gamut of what was popular at the time while still managing to be, arguably, the most “Say Anything” record that exists. Guest vocals appear on over half the songs in unique, significant parts. In Defense of the Genre isn’t for everyone, especially on first listen, but it is an opus that celebrates and challenges the genre in every way.

You can buy In Defense of the Genre on iTunes.

After the success of …Is a Real Boy, Max Bemis faced what seemed an impossible task: topping himself. What he produced is a masterpiece of collaboration, experimentation and craft. In Defense of the Genre brought the outward, judgmental venom of “Admit It!!!” and cast it in every direction. To counterbalance this, Bemis also provided uncomfortably reflective and humbling lyrics of himself. The colorful poetry describing drug addiction, psychosis and coming to terms with indiscriminate anger is equal parts enthralling and sickening.

In Defense of the Genre is a dark album that reflects the time of its release. The golden era of the early 2000’s had faded and the few bands that still seemed to have any traction were heavier and brooding. Nearly everyone took a stab at experimentation, and while some succeeded, this era saw a massive drop off of bands that had been big just a couple years prior.

Rather than remake another punk record, Say Anything delved to see how depraved pop punk could be. The entire album is a blur of genre. Techno, dance, ragtime piano, grunge and pop seamlessly traipse between tempo changes that would kill a song by a lesser writer. Somehow, each sound manages to survive a solid coat of production and make a cohesive sound. In Defense of the Genre is as much a masterful dark pop album as it is the sound of madness itself.

The stories about Max Bemis prior to this album are legendary. Wandering the streets before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mental hospitals, and drug abuse seemed to constantly filter in through the news sites for a while. In his writing, not only did Bemis not shy away from this, the entire album documents the process of finding himself in the midst of madness (“The Church Channel”) and crawling his way out (“Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.”)

While each song attempted something new, some of the true stand outs are the acoustic tracks. “An Insult to the Dead” is one of Say Anything’s most amazing songs. The wrangled guitar, the gentle tambourine and plinking piano, and Max’s voice, accompanied by the faint shout in the background during the chorus, create a haunted effect. More than anything, the heartbreak in Bemis’ voice as he sings, “Oh God, forgive me Moses, Jesus, Allah” is unparalleled.

One true highlight is the use of guest vocals. They’re expertly chosen and provide a snapshot of who was popular. What’s amazing is how many of them are still wildly relevant today. On top of that, their placement in songs reflects the guest’s own personality. Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara provides the evil voice of paranoia on “Surgically Removing the Tracking Device”. Paramore’s Hayley Williams is the defiant angel on his shoulder in “The Church Channel” that urges him to seek help (“You were forlorn in despair / With your drugs and your hardcore porn / Trust me, those days won’t be mourned”).

Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba provides a haunting melody in the background of “Retarded in Love”. Anthony Green is the voice of alcoholism (“Hangover Song”). Gerard Way appears in the title track, a song attempting to make sense of why musicians write. The song breaks into a momentary country western jamboree as Way sings, “I’ve got an empty wallet and a record cover”, reminding himself that the best art doesn’t guarantee reward.

Max Bemis never hid his adoration of Saves The Day. I remember hearing a rumor about how the band dropped off of a tour with Saves The Day, allegedly due to drug problems. “Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.” seems to address this directly. Max asks his bandmates for help, and swears that evil shouldn’t be in their tour van. Saves The Day’s Chris Conley appears after an interlude of people offering help. Hearing Bemis’ personal hero shout, “If you want it, then come and get it /We’re all with you now”, still gives me chills 10 years later.

In Defense of the Genre is a true artistic endeavor. It was a massive risk taken at the height of Say Anything’s popularity. It’s also the last ‘classic’ Say Anything record. After this, the band’s sound became poppier and Max’s struggles less dire. What should be a hot mess of a record manages to be a cohesive concept album that finds the sound of madness itself. It’s an album that truly deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary, even though it may not be to everyone’s liking.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 is currently fighting the pesky Baratheon hordes! …..Or battling his cat to the death over small flakes of chicken.

The Self-Destruction of Saves The Day

saves_the_day

UPDATE: On October 26, 2018, Saves the Day released their ninth studio album, titled 9. It’s pretty good.

The Chicago Bears lost their first regular season game this weekend. To be honest, I don’t know anything about football, but it’s a well-known inside joke that, although the Bears haven’t performed very well the last few years, their fan base continues to follow them relentlessly. The same can be said of Saves The Day.

Though most people know the band’s first few albums, their experimentation over the last decade has been met with enthusiasm from fans willing to listen to anything “Chris Conley and friends” create. However, the events of the Chicago Bears Block Party showed that even the most loyal fans have limits, and sometimes a band can damage the goodwill given to them by being obnoxious.

I love Saves The Day. They were one of my first obsessions in music. I’ve seen them almost annually for the last decade. At the Chicago Bears Block Party, they were the headline event with Lucky Boys Confusion (one of my more well known loves) performing immediately before them. Lucky Boys put on a stellar performance, per usual.

Almost from the moment Saves The Day took the stage, Chris Conley seemed off. From the slow build up to the first song (“All-Star Me”), to the point where the band was actually getting booed on stage, Conley was an example of nearly everything musicians are mocked for. Even now, a few days later, I can’t tell if it was the worst show I’ve seen, or the most entertaining. I don’t even know if it was because he was too inebriated or if it was some type of Shia LaBeouf ‘performance art’ horseshit. But I am worried for the future of Saves The Day. And Chris Conley.

***

Let’s start at the band level. Though the rest of the band played well enough, it seems like they barely played more than 10 songs (including the clusterfuck that was a 10-minute-long session of “A Drag in D Flat”) in a set that was over an hour long. About 20 minutes in, to say that the band looked annoyed would be an understatement. The fact that they continued to play at all, is merit to their professionalism as musicians.

I don’t know what was wrong with Chris Conley in Chicago, or if it is a bigger problem that is plaguing the group. The band actually said at one point that they had “drank all the free beer,” but this appeared to be something more serious. Between the continuous shouts of, “We’re alive! We’re alive!” and the non-stop references to how “crazy the world is and we’re all alive together in the cosmos,” it became far too easy to speculate about Chris’ state of mind.

I would like to say that the low point of Conley’s night was the off-key vocals or stopping to tune his guitar three times, instructing an already pissed crowd to “talk amongst yourselves.” It could have been when he stopped playing music entirely for nearly 10 minutes (I might be exaggerating, but not by much) to talk about how great it is to be alive while the crowd started booing him. Or that during one of his monologues, the crowd actually started chanting “LBC! LBC!” for Lucky Boys Confusion.

But none of that compares to the disastrous performance of “A Drag in D Flat”, a beloved song off of Through Being Cool. Even now, I am not entirely sure that this was the song they were even playing, because I was so focused on how fucked everything was. The band turned a three-minute pop punk anthem into a 10-minute sadness nightmare.

Though Chris seemed like he was about to sing several times, he instead proceeded to turn the song into an extremely long guitar solo and jam session, followed by him looking skywards, seeming to be lost in the continuous verse of guitar riffs from Arun Bali. Then he passed out.

I assume he passed out. I don’t know how else to describe someone toppling over, knocking the mic stand towards the crowd, and laying on the stage for about 30 seconds. The rest of the band continued to play, looking down on him until he returned to the guitar solo while lying on his back. When he got up, he stumbled around the stage and leaned on bassist Rodrigo Palma and Arun for support. This happened for what seemed like minutes at a time. The crowd (at least in my section) alternated between laughing at him and looking around nervously. One woman wondered aloud if “someone should get a medic.”

Chris Conley has always been quirky, which is what gives his music so much charm. Listening to any number of podcasts or interviews he’s been a part of shows that. His music harnesses an innocence interlocked with anger. Conley hasn’t been as angry in his last few recordings, and it’s healthy for artists to change over time, especially if it is towards a happier mentality. But this isn’t healthy, and I’m fucking worried about him.

If this is where Conley is in his life, I don’t know if I want to continue following the band. Everyone has a bad night on stage. Everyone experiments a bit. But there is something darker beneath the surface when a crowd of faithful fans start cheering for another band. At one point, the crowd shouted at the stage, “play a song!” Conley responded with “We can just talk. We’re just people, and we can talk to you.”

***

Saves The Day never make the same album twice. Conley even announced that this was the last show they were playing before going into the studio to record. I hope he is just worn out and blowing off steam before recording. Because if not, I have no idea how this entire process won’t be an absolute mess.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a musician wanting to banter with the crowd or give a message during their set. Usually, the music punctuates those statements into something meaningful. This was someone shouting the same nothing sentence over and over.

I don’t know where his mind was or how annoyed his bandmates were. I don’t know if it was an isolated incident or a more common problem. I hope it’s out of his system. I have a new fear that I never expected: that Chris Conley could ruin his own music if he’s approaching his own work like this.

As much as I have given to support this band over the years, I hesitate to say if I will see them live again if this is how they treat their shows. More than anything, I’m worried about Chris. That wasn’t healthy behavior for anyone. I hope he finds whatever he’s looking for and gets help if it’s needed.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 saw Saves The Day as his first concert ever. He drove three hours to see them, multiple times.

Reflecting On: Saves The Day – Sound The Alarm

saves_the_day

It feels like Saves the Day have always been a staple of the pop punk scene, forging a path on their own against the grain the their peers. At the top of their game, the band released In Reverie, a fuzzed dreamscape punctuated by the arrival of a Chris Conley with much higher vocals than on past releases. While it is regarded much more favorably today, at the time of release the album was more or less a flop; a general consensus among fans hated it compared to Stay What You Are or Through Being Cool. Sound the Alarm then, was the rebirth of Saves the Day. It wasn’t a rebirth in that is was made to please fans (it did that), but it was a response to the criticism made against In Reverie, the first album to produce the sound of modern STD albums, and the first in a trilogy of albums dealing with depression, promising a robust amount of work coming from the band for the foreseeable future.

I’ve always seen Sound the Alarm as a wake-up call to the fans. In response to the criticism of the low-key elements of In Reverie, Chris Conley turned the guitars up. In response to the pushback against the psychedelic, dreamy lyrics, he sang of much darker stories and degrading aspects of depression. Since they didn’t seem to appreciate the experimentation, he refined the way to write a pop song to a razor’s edge and slung power chords like an axe.

If Stay What You Are was the quintessential emo album of the early aughts, Sound the Alarm was the rock record that STD fans didn’t know we wanted. “Head for the Hills” opened with a blast of rough guitars, as though it were a demented cousin of “Certain Tragedy”, before blaring into the immediately chilling lyrics of, “Burning the door in the back of my mind/ Lying alone in the morning light, feel like swallowing my eyes./ I walk around the house until my feet begin to bleed/ Still I can’t forget somehow”.

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Sound the Alarm, other than the ‘dark’ lyrics, is how heavy the music is. By most regards, the music is still considered pop, but by Saves the Day standards it might as well be metal. The guitars raged, and the bass was turned up to fearsome levels, playing a much more prominent role than on past regards, thumping along as though following the listener down an alley. For anyone who questioned the direction of the band after In Reverie, this was an album that reminded them that this was the band who wrote Through Being Cool, found art in the depths of depression to create an emo masterpiece, and then suckerpunched haters who thought the band would try to recreated Stay What You Are to appease the detracting fans.

For everything that fans think define Saves The Day, Sound The Alarm set a precedent for staples to their live shows. For everyone who came to hear “At Your Funeral”, “Eulogy”, “Dying Day” and “The End” became new necessary songs. Simple pop songs, perfected down to the second in how long they lasted, and infused with enough energy to fill the entirety of the last couple STD albums.

“I’m living in a dark and dying day, and everything is lost along the way/ The feeling in my hearts’ not the same, so what’s to say?”, as the opening lines from “Dying Day” showed that although Chris Conley was aiming to satisfy the need the everyone who wanted a ‘dark’ album, he was having fun with it by supplanting positive sounding guitar riffs as the backbone of the song. It could may as well have been a B-Side to Through Being Cool.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Sound The Alarm though, is how it became a concept album. When it was first released, it was taken for what it was – a rock album. However, several months after its release, Chris mentioned in several interviews that this was the first in a trilogy of albums dealing with depression. That’s the first time I reexamined it. Every dark lyric took a new meaning as I tried to figure out how it would tie together with two more albums worth of music.

The sound became the writhing tide of depression when it grips you fully, tearing at your flesh in an orgy of energy that saps your strength. Although the music may have sounded poppy, the thoughts behind it ate away at the good mood. Though the energy remained, it deteriorated quickly into ideas of death and poisoned consciousness. And right when it seems like everything might be balancing out, it struck at the gut punch to anyone who has ever felt true depression: how it affects those around you.

While the first half of the album delved into dark imagery balanced by pop music, the second half truly sank hope of redemption, starting with “Say You’ll Never Leave”. It spoke directly to the people who love someone suffering from depression directly and the desperation not to hurt them while you deal with the pain inside, as Chris sang, “Say you’ll never leave, please, this war inside my mind is killing me./ I’ll cut out my throat and I’ll eat it raw, and drown in the blood as it fills my lungs./ Say you’ll never leave, please, this war inside my mind is killing me”.

The rest of the record follows this deeper pain, begging to spare those around him and almost apologizing for putting them in this position with increasingly desperate lyrics, such as “Sifting through the picture of the ghost inside my mind/ Somehow can’t forget the times I failed to get things right” (“Diseased”), or the softer “Don’t Know Why”, as he sings, “The mirror staring back at me/ The cracking lines along my face/ The times I try to get things straight, but could not./ I know how hard I try to keep myself alive/ But I don’t know, I don’t know why”.

Although Sound The Alarm never seems to pick up the pieces and becomes increasingly darker, there are two more albums to do just that. This was also around the time that I saw Saves The Day live for the first time, at the Metro in Chicago. Chris Conley walked on stage with bright pink hair and a green army-looking jacket. It nearly startled me, as I expected someone half dead to take the stage after hearing songs like these. Instead, a shit-eating grin plastered across his face, he unleashed more energy upon me than I had ever seen. Even now, over ten years later, I consider that one moment of seeing him take the stage, playing through his set immediately after the release of Sound The Alarm as one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

Chris has never hid the fact that he has dealt with depression by any means. Sound The Alarm, Under the Boards, and Daybreak are the most direct albums that deal with it head on. But seeing him in the lights of the stage, belting song after song and bouncing to each strum of the guitar, I reminded myself that no matter how dark it can get (Sound The Alarm can get dark), it is always conquerable. There is always a way to smile through it. There is always a reason to keep performing.

While I don’t expect anyone to consider Sound The Alarm the pinnacle Saves The Day album, I am hurt when it’s not considered among their best (What about Can’t Slow Down, maaaaaan?!). It signaled the resurgence of Saves The Day, the establishing of what their sound, style, and charisma would be for the next decade. Sound The Alarm did more than give them a second shot at a career; it reminded us that even in the darkest depths of our minds, we can still find reason to smile brightly and do our best, because at any given time, there are at least two albums worth of even darker trials ahead to conquer, and we should look forward to the chance to prove that we can.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 Saves The Day was his first concert (with The Early November!) For fifteen years, Saves The Day and New Found Glory have always been his fall-to bands for music, no matter the circumstances. Long Live Saves The Day!

Review: Say Anything – Hebrews

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Max Bemis has always been one of my guitar gods. The frantic solos and crushing melodies were what initially drew me into the band in the first place. When I heard that the band’s newest album, Hebrews, was made without any guitars, it left me with a single reaction: “WAT.”

Bemis has always been known for his eccentric tendencies and often quirky song writing, but there was something so off-putting about a rock band opting for a plethora of keyboards and orchestral instruments. To be completely honest, I was turned off to the idea and ultimately wasn’t excited for the album at all. What I didn’t expect was for Hebrews to be the album that Say Anything fans have been wanting since In Defense of the Genre, if not …Is A Real Boy.

What it lacks in the comfort of guitar rock, it more than makes up for in the intensity and storytelling of classic Say Anything song writing. For an album that sounds similar to a Ben Folds/Hellogoodbye hybrid, it’s easily one of Bemis’ best works, if not the album that is ultimately able to equal Is a Real Boy. It’s adventurous, intimate and cleverly orchestrated chaos. There are so many layers to these songs – each one demands multiple listens just to catch everything being thrown out there. Ironically, this is also the hardest record since IDotG.

While keyboards act as the primary instrument of the record (dueling with Bemis’ voice for lead), they never feel overdone or in the way. Bemis essentially destroys the instrument, banging viciously before gently pumping out a circus-styled melody and gentle sound. Constant synth is used in the background for added layering throughout several songs, similar to Hellogoodbye.

The real surprise is how effective the use of unconventional instrumentation affects the songs. The orchestration is subtle, but extraordinarily efficient. The faint grump of a tuba adds just the right layer of bass to supplement. Or a song like “Boyd”, easily the hardest and fastest song on the album, that uses a fiddle and violin where hardcore punk guitar chords would have normally been. In essence, the hardcore punk melody is there, but with a completely unique sound unlike most anything else I’ve ever heard.

Garron DuPree’s bass melodies are among the best of Say Anything’s discography. He’s a relentless musician and more than capable to stand toe-to-toe with Bemis’ nightmarishly demanding writing. It’s almost alarming how entrancing his bass lines are when they manage to crash into the forefront of the song. Where the keys take over normal guitar parts, DuPree’s bass keep the songs on course and give the punk edge expected of Say Anything. New recording drummer Reed Murray is able to match the quality that we all grew to love from Coby Linder with sleek precision and hard beats.

Arguably the most prominent instrument is Bemis himself, providing the best vocal performance since IDotG. His vocal range races from one end of the scale to the other, from gentle crooning (“Lost My Touch”) to guttural punk screams and growls (“Boyd”). The guest vocals for each song are very similar to IDotG, as each guest adds small segments to the songs, either just hidden in the background (Chris Conley in “John McClane”) or complete take over (Jeremy Bolm and Christie Dupree in “Lost My Touch”). For an album that features guest vocals on literally every song, each instance feels necessary and special.

Lyrically, this is the most intimate Bemis has been since Is a Real Boy, which is part of the magic that gave his initial songs so much gravity. They’re deeply personal, self-deprecating and funny. In many ways, Hebrews feels like the sequel to Is a Real Boy that we always wanted, as well as a continuation to the “story” concept from that album as well.

“Judas Decapitation” is more of a sequel to fan favorite “Admit It!!!” than “Admit It Again” was, as Bemis tears away at himself through the eyes of his own fans and their apparent waning support of his recent albums. He sings “I hate that dude now that he’s married / He’s got a baby on the way, poor Sherri…So he’s convinced it’s a manic delusion to know true love / Be 19 with a joint in hand, never change the band”.

In “Lost My Touch”, Bemis croons “Some say I’ve lost my touch at crafting Say Anything songs / I suppose I’ll let you take my place on stage; it’s not a difficult job to supplant, young one”, biting himself against the complaints of fans.

However, as hateful as he can be towards himself, Bemis still harbors the uniquely dark lyrics we expect from him in songs like “Six Six Six,” where he sings “I belong in jail but I lied my way to heaven with a wife who hasn’t learned that I’m Satan yet”, before breaking out into the chorus amid sweeping keyboards.

Hebrews isn’t just the new Say Anything album; it’s the quintessential Say Anything album, comparable to Is a Real Boy in how unique and important it is to the discography of this band. Each song is adventurously elaborate and surprising in how it makes up for the lack of rock’s primary instrument.

Bemis lifted any restrictions he’d had lyrically, rampaging through themes of inward reflection, family, the views of his own fan base and religion. For any band other than Say Anything, this would best be a side project. However, Hebrews is easily one of the best albums of the year, and hands down one of Max Bemis’ best works.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.