Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Saves The Day ‎– Ups & Downs: Early Recordings And B-Sides (2004)

Saves the Day fans will happily devour Ups & Downs, as it presents a wealth of archival and rare stuff from one of the genre's more veteran groups. "Sell My Old Clothes, I'm Off to Heaven" wins the best title blue ribbon; it's taken from the same 2000 session as "A Drag in D Flat." "Hold" and "I'm Sorry I'm Leaving" were previously available on Saves the Day's 1999 acoustic EP, but Chris Conley's liner-note insights into their recordings are revealing. Fan favorite "Jessie & My Whetstone" appears twice, once acoustically and again in live, electrified form. It's a real teenage tearjerker, and one of Conley's songwriting highlights. Sure, punk-pop-inflected emoticons are a dime a dozen. But in something like the bittersweet pal tribute "Way His Collar Falls," he knows just how to combine lyric with melody to make the song something more than simply youthfully exuberant. His own age shows on the early Saves demo material that makes up the majority of Ups & Downs' second half -- the songs have a ragged, holy-crap-we're-a-band urgency. They also sound a lot like Green Day most of the time. A couple covers round out the set here, including "Clash City Rockers" and the Descendents. Check the rough mixing on the Clash tune -- it's, like, 7" quality at best, dude. Considering Saves the Day operates in a world where 7"s are largely extinct, the inclusion just makes Ups & Downs more visceral for fans. Now, what are you waiting for? Go out and start your own band.
Johnny Loftus, Rovi

Ah, good old Saves The Day. Although they've dropped off my radar since the highly disappointing In Reverie, I still put a copy of Through Being Cool in my player from time to time to reminisce about the good old days.

The band that is most known for being 'heavily influenced' by Lifetime has gone through many changes, and I was expecting this disc to chronologically play them, perhaps starting with a raw, quicker Saves The Day and ending up with the lighter, way-too-high-pitched band that is around today. And boy was I wrong about that.

The album introduces with the title track, as it were, "Ups and Downs." An easily found b-side from the Stay What You Are-era, the introduction guitar effect is quite addictive and I see no reason as to why this song wasn't on SWYA.

The next two tracks on the album are obvious standouts, even though they are simply tracks from Vagrant's Another Year On The Streets series. The pop punk singalongs "Sell My Old Clothes, I'm Off To Heaven" and "A Drag In D Flat" make you remember the days that it seemed Saves The Day could do no wrong. Quick and searing guitars, properly pitched and emotional vocals, and lyrics like "I'd love to be scattered to hell with you. To hell with you. To hell with you." are solid examples of Through Being Cool-era STD.

What happens next is surprising. I never really looked at the advance press sheets for this album, so when I heard the introduction of I'm Sorry I'm Leaving echoing through my speakers, I was a bit confused. Fast forwarding at first, I couldn't believe my ears; Vagrant had put the entire acoustic EP on this disc. Huh? An album that fans of the band will already have, or at least have heard, needs not to be on this. Subtracting the five songs of the EP and you still have a pretty strong 14 song album. Not to mention the sudden acoustic tracks interfere greatly with the listening ability of the album; going from power pop punk anthems that leave you begging for more and ending up with this is somewhat disappointing. Don't get me wrong; I do enjoy the EP, but it was a blaring mistake to even include it on this album, much less put it as songs 4-8.

Checking out the tracks of the rest of the disc, all the titles were new to me, so I just pushed play and hoped for the best. I was not disappointed. "The Art of Misplacing Firearms" starts off with a catchy guitar hook, and then jumps into quick beats and the great old sound I had been hoping for. Although lacking the staple ending of fist pumping that older Saves The Day was known for, it's a strong track.

From this point on, the album stays in the same formula. Really strong, older songs that were obviously done by a young band still needing some time to grow. "1:19" and "Dave Feels Right" have some great endings, which seperate them from the rest of the rather formulaic recording. This isn't to say the Saves The Day formula is a bad one; I grew up with it and so I have an appreciation for it. However, it's obvious that these tracks were left on the demo tapes for a reason; they just aren't strong enough to make it onto a 'great' album like Can't Slow Down or Through Being Cool.

"I Think I'll Quit" is an outstanding track that is followed by a rather odd, awkward rock song "Cheer" that I found pretty skippable. "Clash City Rockers" sounds like, well, Saves The Day covering the Clash. Good cover, but I don't think I would have put it at this point in the album. Again, another sign of bad mixing.

A live, full-band recording of "Jesse And My Whetstone" closes out the album. I haven't ever seen Saves The Day perform this song live, so it was interesting to hear. My biggest complaint is that it's not a song to close an album with; the tempo doesn't change, the vocals are too high and the song becomes weak after a few listens.

Overall this disc is a good listen for a fan of Saves The Day, especially if you're like me and miss the glory days from the band's stint on Equal Vision. The biggest downfall is the mix; putting the three best (and easiest to find) songs before an already-released and not-so-rare acoustic EP is a dumb decision. The tracks stuffed in the middle of the album are worth a listen, but it's nothing you need to go out and buy immediately. It seems like Vagrant is simply cashing in on a band that has proven to be nothing but disappointing to signing to said label. 

This is Saves the Days latest album out. It's basically a compilation of songs that were early recordings, b-sides, or songs that basically were good but were not put on their earlier cd's. (Does that make sense?) Me being the Saves the Day fan that I am (and too impatient to wait for Chips88 to do a review, I'm not too sure if he finished it or not because the search bar and other links were not working, had to pick it up myself and do it. Sorry Chips).

Pamphlet: The pamphlet inside had many pictures in it. Most which can be viewed on the Saves the Day site if you keep refreshing it. It also contained notes about each song. When it was written, why it was written, etc, etc. Cool tid bits of information about the band.

There were 19 songs on this album. A few of these songs were on earlier albums such as "Hold", "Jessie and My Whetstone", "Take Our Cars Now!", etc.

Saves the Day, from Princeton, New Jersey have been playing for over 10 years. They originally started playing together from around the eigth grade.

1. Ups and Downs - One of their slower more "emotional" songs. It's one of my personal favorites. It was one of the unfinished songs that couldn't make the deadline to be on the "Stay What You Are" album. Chris states: that he wrote the song on a 4 string guitar on a balconey outside, while everyone was eating Cheatos. To me it's like the song that shows how far Saves the Day has come along as a band.

2. Sell My Old Clothes, I'm off to Heaven - One of their more upbeat songs after they began finishing developing their sound. Nice lyrical hooks, and pretty good guitar work. Chris states: that he remembers writing the lyrics at a hall show in Connecticut, or some New England State, on the H20 tour when he was trying to kill time.

3. A Drag in D Flat - It starts off with a bass riff. Typical Saves the Day song. Amazing lyrics, and Chris's ability to phrase lyrics in such a catchy way in paragraph form constitutes some level of lyrical genius on his part. Vocals are on the better side of this album. Guitar work is pretty tight. Chris states: He wrote this song on a train ride back from New York to New Jersey.

4. I'm Sorry I'm Leaving - One of their more mellow acoustics. Lyrics meet the Saves the Day standards that Chris sets up. He's a bit whiny in this song. Guitar work is swell. Again, Chris's ability to make vocal melodies so catchy is amazing. Chris states: This was our first acoustic release which they recorded on his makeshift studio in his mother's basement.

5. Hold - One of my personally favorite acoustic songs on this album. It's a supposed "corny" love song, but the way Chris portrays his feelings through his lyrics is superb, and makes it unique from other love ballads. Guitar work is decent. Chris states: The song was just thrown together and I used to jokingly sing it to my friends, trying to make them laugh at my hokey made up love song. Bryan (Our old drummer) wanted to put it on the acoustic 7 inch, so I said, "what the hey" and that's how it got from me to you.

6. Jessie and My Whetstone - This is also another one of my favorite acoustic songs from this album. The intro entertwines with the vocals perfectly, forming an amazingly catchy introduction. Some of Chris's best. Chris states: Lyrics of this song were inspired by Joni Mitchell's album "blue."

7. Take Our Cars Now! - Supposedly one of their rare acoustic releases. The intro is a bit boring. The guitar work is decent. Chris states: This is one of the only songs in our catalogue with lyrics that aren't entirely made up. The song popped out after a New England road trip with some of my friends."

8. The Way His Collar Falls - Another acoustic song! The guitar work here isn't much to write home about. Chris's vocal work is decent. An alright guitar interlude. That sums it up. Chris states: My good friend Leif was in school way up North, and he was having a rough go of it in his early months at college, so I wrote a song for him.

9. The Art of Misplacing Firearms - An eerie guitar intro. I swear, the first time I heard this track, I thought it was Thursday. Drumming isn't that great. It has that repetitive bass snare syncopation. Same with the guitar work. A slow song, for the most part, then gets a fast punk like feel. Chris states: this was the last song to feature aggressive hardcore sensibility. I used to receive nasty phone calls in the middle of the night from Brazil, saying "you are the worst singer ever and your band sucks and you're ugly!" No lie.

10. East Cost - Another one of their old songs. Same old "hardcore/punk" type feel to it. Drums does a snare bass type of syncopation and the guitar's belching powerchords. A really short song. Chris states: The first song from the ancient Saves the Day demo and it is the very first Saves the Day song in history.
2/5 (for trying guys)

11. 1:19 - Another one of their old ancient type, up down beat drum syncopated, power chord thrashing songs. Vocals just sound like strained and whiny. Chris states: I remember playing this song when we were called Sefler in a baseball batting cage in Sayersville, NJ.

12. An Afternoon Laughing - Another one of their "punk" type songs. Drumming is very rigid updown beats. Guitar is just playing powerchords. Not much of the guitar play going on that Saves the Day is well known for. Only thing about this song is that the lyrics are absolutely amazing. Check them out sometime. Chris states: Back then in the days of Sefler, the only consistent shows we played were to our two friends in our practice space.

13. Dave Feels Right - Yeah. You guessed it. Another "punk" aggression type song. Not much else here. Lyrics are pretty good as always. Chris states: He wrote the song about his friend Dave who ditched the band for his girlfriend.

14. When It isn't Like it Should Be - A pretty catchy intro. Then it goes into yet another "punk/hardcore/whateverit'scalled" type of palm muted power chord striving up down beating syncopated songs. Where Chris is just sorta whining/ straining his vocals. Chris states: It is my absolute favorite song from our early history and is still one of my favorite songs I have ever written. We used to close every show with this song, and it would leave me feeling entirely drained.

15. 1959 - A thirty second song. Like their typical old stuff. Need I say more? Chris states: Here's the thirty second song that never made it onto the demo.

16. I Think I'll Quit - Typical old type Saves the Day song. If you like their Can't Slow Down album, you'll probably love this stuff. But I'm not much of a fan of it. Chris actually makes some weird sounds on this song. Anyways, Chris states: A song that you can really tell I sound like a kid.

17. Cheer - Semi catchy guitar intro. It's alright. It's supposedly a cover of a Descendants song. Not much stuff here. Chris states: That is was part of the Punk Rock Jukebox series in which hardcore bands covered old punk songs. But it never made the cut.

18. Clash City Rockers - It definitely doesn't have much of a modern Saves the Day sound. It's like a mix between some Weezer/Rise Against/Green day type of song. (If it sounds nothing like what I mentioned, I'm a bit tired right now.) It's an alright song. Chris states: The cover of a classic Clash song.

19. Jessie & My Whetstone (Live 2003) - It's pretty good. You can hear the audience cheering for them to do Jessie and they go crazy when he states that's what they're going to do. When Chris comes in for the intro, he sounds a bit weird though. But seems to correct himself afterwards. One of the catchy songs on the album. Some of their more modern stuff. Chris states: A recording from our tour with Taking Back Sunday, in the fall of 2003.

Good Points - It has basically all the stuff that you probably won't ever find anywhere else. It also has the best acoustic tracks they made. (But hey, those acoustics are probably on "I'm Sorry I'm Leaving" Anyways.)

Bad points - A lot of the songs on this album are either on other albums, such as "I'm Sorry I'm Leaving" or sound like the songs on "Can't Slow Down" with that more "punk" influenced beat. They don't have many nice songs that sound like stuff off their "Through Being Cool Album.")

Overall: 3/5

Should you get this album? Only if you like collecting their material, and like they're "Can't Slow Down" album. Other then that, you might want to stay away and by the "I'm Sorry I'm Leaving" album for the acoustics.

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