Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Saves The Day ‎– Through Being Cool (1999)

A keystone of my musical tastes would most definitely have to include all of the discography from the mind of Christopher Conley. Saves the Day have always been the band I would fall back onto whether or not I had a bad day or just looking for something to jam out to while going for a drive on a spring evening. Despite my heavy bias towards the band, I want to try to look at their sophomore album, Through Being Cool, through the eyes of someone who has never heard of them.

I remember when I first picked up the album; it was the August of 2002. It was my first Saves the Day album and right from the start it was a love affair. "All-Star Me" kicks off the album and it's short and sweet, while getting straight to the point: it's a very accessible album that gives us insights into the life of Christopher Conley. Every song is a story, giving us a perfect musical Polaroid of what's going on. You can almost visualize the songs as they are happening because Chris uses brilliant imagery with, what was considered at the time of its release, some of the wittiest and most upfront lyrics of the time period. Even by today's standards, the album's lyrics are still arguably some of the best to come out in the last ten years.

The highlight of the album is mainly the whole collection. Everyone will have their favorites, and to name highlights of it would seem foolish when in the end it is all a matter of which songs connect with you or just leave you with a smile. From a perspective of a reviewer though, the album did take some time to grow on me. There were those tracks that immediately got replayed after hearing them, but some of the tracks like "Third Engine" take some time to grow on you. But when these songs do grow on you, like a hook, they sink in deep and pull you along. The album ends with "Banned from the Backporch" which I feel goes in line with Saves the Day's ability to close an album on a very high note and give you the feeling of being complete.

I feel that the production of the album is very well done for the time period and it actually sort of gives it a nostalgic feel. You can tell the album wasn't recorded anytime in the past 7 years, but in that it gives the album its own feel and gives the vibe of a scrapbook to me. As I mentioned earlier, the songs are like Polaroids and that fits with this "scrapbook" of an album.

Time has treated the album well and the songs still hold up as much today as they did when they were first released. Chris' vocals are right on and just encompass the emotion behind each story. It is still one of my favorite albums to throw on and jam out to whether its on a spring afternoon walk or a late night summer drive.

For fans of the Saves the Day, this will be a staple in your collection as it will undoubtedly be a favorite of their catalog. For those who haven't given them a listen, it's a great album to start out with. Even though Saves the Day changes their line-up and their style with each album, the words behind it all are still coming from the same man, and this album is one of his finer works.
Saves The Day

The first Saves the Day record, Can't Slow Down sounded an awful lot like Lifetime. Most critics would use that in a derogatory manner. But I'm not a critic. I'm a fan. Lifetime is one of the greatest hardcore or punk or whatever bands to grace this planet. So I'm biased. For me to say something sounds like Lifetime is a high compliment. However (you knew it was coming), you're not going to make a name for yourself by trying to sound like a scene defining band. So while I found Can't Slow Down listenable, it quickly ended up in a drawer on my desk. It followed the Lifetime formula too closely, and that's no fun. I want surprises, after all.
Thankfully, with Through Being Cool, the band has nearly found themselves. It's still a little derivative. One of the better tracks, Rocks Tonic Juice Magic sounds almost identical to Samiam's track, Capsized from their Clumsy album. However, the rest of the album seems to be more in line with where I hope to see the band moving in the next while.
It's good, simple pop-punk, with some hard edges, and, to their credit, they don't sound like anything on Fat, which is a hard thing for a pop-punk band to do.
This isn't a mediocre album. It's actually a very good one, but mostly because it shows the potential and talent that will hopefully make Saves the Day into a classic to rival their idols.

Review Summary: A Definitive Point in Saves the Day's Career.
4 of 4 thought this review was well written

Welcome to Saves the Day, the ever changing ball of clay. Saves the Day has gone through many transformations in their 10 or so years of existence, including many new members and many new sound. Most people are familiar with STD's later works... songs like "At Your Funeral" and "Anywhere With You", both from albums released during their "post-millennium" era. Don't get me wrong, I love all of their work, and the album Stay What You Are is excellent, but where Saves the Day really shines is pre-2000... If you take a look back there, 1999 to be exact, you'll find a wonderful gem, compounded with everything that defines Saves the Day and who they are today - they called it Through Being Cool.

I picked up this album somewhere about 8 years ago when it was first released and I was a young teenage boy living out his pre-pubescent life wanting be a punk rock and roll star. The moment I popped Through Being Cool into my CD player and listened to it, I had began to look at music a different way. Through Being Cool is jam packed with melodic hardcore (if you will) guitar riffs, fast paced drum beats, incredible bass lines, and loud, whiny, emotional vocals and words. In my eyes, this album is the true definition of an emo album that is done well and done correctly. Through Being Cool is a keeper no matter how you look at it.

All-Star Me - The album kicks off with a little bit of amp feedback, a progression of three guitar power chords and a full band entrance immediately after. This song is fairly short, only 1:43 in length, but in those nearly-two minutes, you immediately fall in love with Chris's voice and the way he portrays his lyrics as more a story rather than a song. The songs is fairly fast with a short "break-down" with single guitar strums and Chris's voice wailing loud. The song ends with one of my favorite lyrics on the whole album, "Even now that you're not here, I climb these mountains of houses every night / I say your name and wished I could have done things right." Awesome opening song, especially for it's short length. (8/10)

You Vandal - The second song starts of with another guitar riff, this time slightly more grungy and distorted. A long drum roll and a slide down the bass neck lead the way for a full band ensemble, complete with distorted guitar octaves and super-fast drumming. The verse of the song sounds a lot like a punk song, but not before long, we're tossed into the chorus, with slower-paced drumming and very rhythmical guitar and bass work tracked with lines you can't help but sing along with. "Whoa, hey, what can I do? Lungs are breathin' open air and my spleen is dripping from my pants. Whoa, hey, what can I do? Left me in the cold, and I miss you." Once you hear the chorus, you be hooked into this song and the verses will flow along with it. Excellent song, one of their best. (10/10)

Shoulder To The Wheel - This time, we hear few quick guitar bends and we're off. The intro is upbeat and fast paced, but not quite as fast as the two preceding songs. The verse of the song is even slower with quieter drums and less guitar which really brings out Chris's voice as he sings about being on the road. "And I say just go, please Dave, just drive. Get us as far as far can be, get us away from tonight." Not before long, the guitar picks up in the second part of the verse and we are launched into another head-bobbing, toe tapping chorus which is a perfect opportunity to sing along. "We drive, Dave steps on the gas. The world thats flying by is slick and smooth, just big waves of light. The radio's playin' Queen and we're rockin' out." Chris Conley, you are a genius. (9/10)

Rocks Tonic Juice Magic - Rocks Tonic Juice Magic immediately begins with a guitar and a voice, and some of the most descriptive, yet insightfully hopeful lyrics from the whole album. "Let me take this awkward saw, run it against your thighs. Cut some flesh away, I'll carry this piece of you with me." Amazingly written and sung. The verses progress with a slower pace than most of the album and end with a jazz-type drum beat, very little guitar, lots of bass, and Chris's voice. After the first time, we hear another verse, but the second time leads us straight into three solid drum beats, a pause, and Chris yelling "(My) heart is on the floor" after which the rest of the band joins in to see him finish with "Why don't you step on it? When I think of all the things you've done." The songs ends with a louder jam and the same line being repeated over and over... "You and I are like when fire and the ocean floor collide." (8/10)

Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots - This song, for a change, begins with a drums intro before blasting into a fast melodic jam. This song is very upbeat and cheerful sounding, though the lyrics are descriptive about getting your heart broken by someone you love. Chris begins, "Somewhere underwater, maybe you can find my heart. That's where I threw it after you had torn it out." After that, it's even more melodic guitar riffs along with story-telling lyrics. This song has no definitive chorus, yet begs you to sing along the whole way through. It abruptly ends with the guitars stopping exactly on a drum beat, but not before Chris yells, "I'm diving in this river, fishing out my heart. Never gonna let you get your hands on this again." A masterpiece. (10/10)

Third Engine - This is by far my favorite song in the album. Beginning with a fast guitar into, we are soon listening to a few quick drum fills that point us towards the first verse, which describes Chris taking a train to see his loved one. The verses are somewhat fast with heavy, deep guitar parts. Then there is the chorus. In my opinion, it is musically and lyrically the best chorus on this album. The guitars are dancing around solid chords with slightly melodic fills in between each one, which Chris yells, "Did you know, my sweet, that I once took the liberty of watching you in your sleep? I rolled over and over, trying to touch your knees underneath the sheets. Trying to touch your knees." The way he yells the words sweet, sleep, and knees over the guitars and drums behind him is musical genius to my ears. I love every second of it, and I get chills when I hear it. (10/10)

My Sweet Fracture - My Sweet Fracture, being the longest song on the record at 3:52, is ignited by a quick drum roll immediately followed by a verse full of drum and bass. Not before long, the guitar comes in following the same pattern as the bass, and the verse ends with a harmonic, "No-oh-oh." The chorus follows, feeling very melancholy, yet uplifting at the same time as Chris sings, "Don't you love those leaves? Don't you wish the orange stayed forever and crickets sang in the night all through winter?" The rest of the song flows perfectly through another verse and chorus, leading into the "outro" where it starts off quiet and mellowed out, but picks up and gets harder and harder over time as the same line is repeated, "I'd rather forget the days we spent than try to stay afloat in shallow water," being spoken at first, but yelled by the end. (9/10)

The Vast Spoils of America (From the Badlands Through the Ocean) - Probably the most overlooked and underrated song on the album. This song is about being on the road away from your home and learning to appreciate the beauty of nature and open up your mind. The verses are fast and rocking, ending with an abrupt guitar fill followed by Chris's solo voice yelling "California!" followed by a backed-up, "where the mountains climb so tall and waves crash blue around you." You can call this part the chorus, which is also pretty fast and upbeat. The song eventually reaches the bridge or interlude (whatever you want to call it) which has a head-nodding guitar/drum part as well as another one of my favorite lyrics on the CD. "Sometimes taking off can open up your eyes to everything that lies in your heart. That's when you miss your home and trees seem a little deader." (9/10)

The Last Lie I Told - This song sounds somewhat set apart from the rest of this album. It begins with a clean guitar riff which is surely enough followed by distortion and drums. This song, however, seems quick at first glance, but is a slowly-flowing song. Then it reaches a new part a slightly more upbeat part, where Chris sings, "I think I can see for miles, the city is just beyond those clouds and I guess this is what it's like to be really down," which leads us into a section of on-and-off drum beats and guitar strums. Right after that is the last part of the song which feels the same way the first part of this song did. It has no definitive chorus or hook, but it's a very cool song. Not one of their best, but it deserves a listen. (7/10)

Do You Know What I Love The Most? - The shortest song on this album, clocking in at 1:34, is also one of my favorite. It starts off with an in-your-face drum roll and a killer bass line before it comes to a sharp halt and you are tossed into an ultra-fast verse filled with uplifting guitars and blazing drums. The song continues with this melody on speed until it reaches a stuttering stop right into a jazzy drum section with more thumping bass. The song is so damn catchy and the words are excellent, telling a story of Chris and a someone he loves experiencing a day together. "(I'll) sit in the lazy chair, all day remembering the things you do so when you come home, I jump up to kiss you and it will knock you back, you'll fall over our TV set. Pick you up to dust you off, baby lets give it a go." Awesome song to rock out too. (10/10)

Through Being Cool - The most un-Saves the Day song here, and in my opinion the worst song. It's not bad, but it's not them. The verse is "evil" sounding and has cheesy lyrics, "You know what? The next time you see Nick, yeah, tell him I'm gonna stick some needles in his face." The chorus is very different sounding than the rest of the song, as is actually pretty catchy. Despite being my least favorite, this song has one of my favorite lyrics, "I'll see the way the world begins to need color everywhere, and I'll realize how small I really am." (6/10)

Banned From The Back Porch - A song about seeing a girl at a party and falling in love with her at first sight. The beginning has a rocking guitar riff followed by a stuttering, toe-tapping guitar pattern for the verse. The chorus is very memorable as Chris melodically sings, "Whoa, who is this? Where was she all those crazy years? Whoa, who is this? Where was she when my heart couldn't take it's beat?" A somewhat rocked-out song with slightly more heartfelt lyrics. Very good, indeed. (8/10)

Saves the Day is by no means perfect, but this album is a definite landmark in their career as well as the entire genre of emo music altogether. Whether YOU define it as emo or pop-punk or melodic hardcore, one this is for certain: this album rocks, plain and simple, no buts about it.

Possessing a fiery dynamism lacking in their debut Can't Slow Down, Saves the Day's sophomore release on Equal Vision is an emocore classic. More anxious than emo godfathers Get Up Kids, Saves the Day opted for punchier production and faster tempos to provide a backdrop for singer Chris Conley's romantic teen declarations. True to the genre Conley helped define, his lyrics walk a thin sentimental wire. Just when the stories lose balance, leaning toward the obvious, sappy, or both, Conley pulls it together with plain-spoken honesty, as in "Third Engine" when he describes seeing his long-distance love in the face of another girl while riding a train: "I looked out past her cheeks/Through the glass-light conduit/But the sun had sank already/Disappeared into New Jersey/Oh, why don't they have phones on these things." Conley's disclosures resonate wildly with his teen audience - validating their shallow, but still open wounds - while the band's tightly wound arrangements gyrate around his language of casual suffering. Highlights of this most elevated combination include the melodic, quick-paced "My Sweet Fracture" and "The Last I Told You." Ending Through Being Cool with the metallic "Banned From the Back Porch," Saves the Day toys with expectation, revealing an eagerness to explore outside the emocore form that is all but mastered on this 1999 release.
Vincent Jeffries

It's 2011, but you wouldn't know that from some of the tours going on recently. Pete Yorn and Ben Kweller? Coheed and Cambria? Are you sure it's 2011? Also on that list of bands who were huge when I was in high school is Saves the Day. They've got a forthcoming album (Daybreak, due out this fall) and a summer tour with the Get Up Kids (themselves on the tail end of a reunion/new album tour). And yet, common reactions to this news are either "Who?" or "Wait, they're still together?".

They are still together, they did write a new album, and yes, it is really 2011. Saves the Day is still going strong, but it's no secret that their fan base loves the classics. Around the time controversial album In Reverie was released (2003), many die-hard STD fans crawled into the back catalogue and never came out. But it being 2011 and all, perhaps it's been a while since you spun some classic STD on a sunny afternoon. I'd like to nominate 1999 release Through Being Cool for your next trip down memory lane.

While most fans need no introduction to this record, it's worth revisiting for many reasons. Its tracklist is a veritable master course on the band: "Shoulder to the Wheel", "Rocks Tonic Juice Magic", "Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots", and "Third Engine" to name just a few. These tracks (the first two in particular) have aged so well that they haven't really aged at all; they sound just as vital 12 years down the road as they did pre-cell phones and September 11th. Maybe that's partially because the idea of the road trip is an iconic part of American culture:

"We drive/Dave steps on the gas/The world that's flying by is slick and smooth/Big waves of light/the radio's playing Queen/And we're rocking out" –from "Shoulder to the Wheel"

"Rocks Tonic Juice Magic" also boasts one of lead singer Chris Conley's earlier forays into lyrical self-mortification. Starting with a now-iconic image ("Let me take this awkward saw/run it across your thighs"), the lyrics concern eyeball removal and the offering of the protagonist's heart to step on, both literally and figuratively. "I'd buy you lemonade right now if you were here/then I'd throw it in your face/and I'd listen to you cry," Conley wails, heartbroken in every sense of the word.

Other prime breakup material on this album includes "My Sweet Fracture" ("Could you tell me the next time that you're choking/I'll run right over to shove some dirt right down your throat") and "You Vandal" ("I woke up to my cold sheets and the smell of New Jersey/… my ribs have parted ways/said ‘we're not going to protect this heart you have'").

The songs still burn with all the sincerity of emotion Conley penned into them a dozen years ago, partly due to the tart sting of the lyrics but also due to skillful instrumentation. Judicious use of electric guitar and an aggressive percussion section remind the listener that STD shows were once not as acoustic as they are now. The intro to "Shoulder to the Wheel" and all of "Banned From the Back Porch" burn with the punk-rock intensity of this energy. "Banned" in particular rocks pretty hard, the kind of song that makes kids of any generation thrash a little harder in the mosh pit.

Alternative Press put Through Being Cool on their 1999 list of most influential albums; to that accolade we might also add that it was the most influential album of Saves the Day's career. Their follow-up, Stay What You Are, is equally popular and contains a similar number of notable singles, but Through Being Cool is the one that established Saves the Day as a force on the music scene while supplying them with setlist material for the rest of their career. Brush the dust off this puppy, and believe again in the magic that was cruising with the windows rolled down and the music turned up, "Shoulder to the Wheel" blasting on your stereo, circa 1999.
Megan Ritt