Can Saves The Day Please Be Good Again?

The emo kings return home to Equal Vision Records. Does that mean they'll be fun again?

Aug 12 2013, 10:14pm

Quick, what’s your favorite Saves The Day song? Yeah, "Always Ten Feet Tall," that’s a good choice. What’s your second favorite? Uh huh, "Rocks Tonic Juice Magic." A stupid name but a fun song. And your third? "At Your Funeral?" That’s a good pick too. Alright, I’m going to fast forward this game by about 30 songs and assume you still haven’t picked anything off the band’s last four albums.

How did I know that? Well, because even the most diehard of Saves The Day fans would rather watch their favorite pair of straight leg jeans get set on fire than listen to any album the band has released over the last decade. It’s hard to say Saves The Day’s last four albums have been bad. They’ve just been...different. And by “different,” I mean bad. Sometimes they’ve sounded like a regular Saves The Day record playing on the wrong speed. Other times, they’ve sounded like a karaoke band doing a third rate impression of Saves The Day. Whatever it is, there’s just been something off.

Part of the problem is that in the mind of old school Saves The Day fans, the band never recaptured that lightning-in-a-bottle they had on their early albums like Through Being Cool and Can’t Slow Down and really, it’s impossible to capture. Saves The Day’s early appeal was that they sounded like a bunch of dorky teens making catchy tunes that bordered somewhere between pop punk and emo. Because that’s what they were, dorky teens. And now they’re in their 30s and no one wants to hear grown-ass men still riding the teen angst wave. It’s why Diff’rent Strokes was so creepy in its final season. America didn’t want to watch Gary Coleman, a 4-foot-tall adult, playing an 8-year-old boy forever. “Whatchu talkin’ bout, Willis?” sounds pretty sad coming from a dude who can grow a beard.

To Saves The Day’s credit, they haven’t just been riding out the musical equivalent of a sitcom catchphrase for the last decade. They’ve been maturing, despite what fans want. I talked to Saves The Day frontginger, Chris Conley, about this recently and he had a good sense of humor about it. He knows all about jaded assholes like me who don’t care about his new material and will shout, “Play ‘Shoulder to the Wheel!’” at him. And does he care? “No, I don’t. I feel more like I accept people’s opinions but I can’t change people’s minds. If I were doing to try to win their approval that was not an authentic version of me, then once they met the real world, what if they didn’t like me?”

OK, so Chris sounds cool with the fact that he lost some fans back when STD made the jump from their original label, Equal Vision Records, to major label DreamWorks, along with emo contemporaries and equally awfully acronymed labelmates, Jimmy Eat World. But here’s the thing: After 10 years of sowing their oats in the big wide world, Saves The Day recently announced that they are returning to Equal Vision to release their next album and the “Circle of Life” song from the Lion King played in the background. Does that mean us old school STD fans should start caring again?

As stubborn as I am about giving new music a shot, I desperately want to take the news of the band’s move back to Equal Vision as a sign that Saves The Day are returning to their roots. I’d love a new album’s worth of material I can scream along to at the top of my lungs on road trips because “WE DRIVE! DAVE STEPS ON THE GAS! THE WORLD THAT’S FLYING BY IS SLICK AND SMOOOOOTH!”

Chris Conley, simpler times.

Problem is, Equal Vision is no longer the reliable mainstay of the punk scene that it once was either. The label, which once put out records by bands like Converge, 108, and American Nightmare (that’s right, I refuse to call them Give Up The Ghost), now has a roster full of garbage-core acts like We Came As Romans and I The Mighty. If you’d like to get an idea of exactly how far Equal Vision has fallen, watch their latest video by William Beckett and ask yourself whether he belongs on a hardcore label or on American Idol as the dude who starts crying because he’s going to Hollywood. So now we’re back to square one on getting to the bottom of whether this new STD will be any good.

Enough hypothesizing. I’m going right to the source. Tell me, Chris Conley of Saves The Day, will I love the new record? “I say you’ll love the record. It’s definitely upbeat and exciting and I think that’s the reason people like Stay What You Are and Through Being Cool so much, because the overall feeling of them is one of excitement. It’s going to be much more fulfilling for our fans to hear another album that’s written from a place of optimism as opposed to coming from the darker parts of the psyche.”

No offense, Chris, but your optimism sounds miserable. It’s cool that you’re content with life these days and all, but I’m still a bitter asshole who sings “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” while thinking about his ex because “YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL JUST NOT ON THE INSIIIIIDE!” Lay some more of that sweet, sweet animosity on me, dawg! There’s plenty of that on the new album...right, Chris? “The new album is a lot happier sounding. Because I finally feel OK being alive and in the world, even though it’s a complicated, strange place. I can live in it, I like it. The new music sounds like that. The songs themselves are upbeat and catchy and the lyrics are really positive, which is sort of a first.” Oh god, Chris, give me something to work with here! Your positive vibes are really bumming me out.

Despite the mixed messages I’m getting on this upcoming Saves The Day album, I’ll probably end up buying it. The fact that I won’t have to give a major label my money to take a chance on it sealed the deal. Lord knows the label has tricked me into making stupider purchases. (I still want my $13 back for that Alexisonfire album, Equal Vision.) If it bombs, I’ll chalk it up to another stale STD release. But if it’s good, man oh man will I be amped to have new sing-along material because “BIG WAVES OF LIGHT! THE RADIO’S PLAYING QUEEN! WE’RE ROCKING OOOOUUT!”

Dan Ozzi is that asshole who still brags about seeing Saves The Day in a New Jersey VFW Hall. He runs Jaded Punk and you can follow him on Twitter here - @danozzi