Last October, Saves the Day released their ninth studio album. Appropriately (or maybe lazily) titled 9, the album has been said to be an autobiographical representation of the band’s 20-something year career in music. And honestly, that sounds like a great idea on paper. Quite frankly however, maybe it should have stayed on paper, with the history of Saves the Day getting a book treatment instead.
If you take 9 at face value, it’s an enjoyable album. The music sounds good- the first half of the album is full of throwbacks to the band’s earliest days when they were primarily Lifetime wannabes. “Suzuki” is barely a minute long, and “It’s Such a Beautiful World” was written to be shouted by a crowd back at the band. Even the cheesefest that is the album’s opening track, “Saves the Day” is fun if you just want to hear Saves the Day play a song like it’s still the late 90’s. Chris Conley’s voice is still nasally, but his singing on this record is at a considerably lower register than the last few Saves the Day records.
The main fault with 9 is that it’s really only good when taken at face value. With a lyricist like Chris Conley at the helms, an autobiography telling the Saves the Day story should work. But in a cruel and ironic twist, the album is Conley at his most lyrically shallow. Gone are the images of being a jukebox, or served up as pig. Even the clunky metaphors of throwing out his heart (that surely became the inspiration for several tattoos) are missing. This album is all about what it’s like to be a member of Saves the Day. And while that has worked in the past (just listen to “Shoulder to the Wheel”), being in Saves the Day is not a universal feeling despite the sheer number of people who have played in this band. But what’s even worse is that the songs all romanticize nearly everything: “Side By Side” skips through the years recalling highlights of recording and playing to large crowds, “Rendezvous” paints a picture of a perfect overseas tour, and “It’s Such a Beautiful World” is about how perfectly fun touring with friends can be.
Positivity, especially in this day and age, is important to hold on to, but if we’re being honest it’s the darker aspects of Conley’s lyrics are what attract people to Saves the Day to begin with, and it’s probably why it feels like so much of 9 is a very middling album. But then you get to the closing track: the 21 and a half minute long “29.” Similar to Daybreak’s title track, “29” is a suite of songs stitched together, and it offers some of the strongest moments on the album, with the lyrics finally diving into the darker side of a touring lifestyle. From run-ins with black ice to strained relationships with loved ones back at home, “29” injects some much needed realism into the story being told on this album. It’s just unfortunate that it’s all in a single song instead of being broken up and scattered throughout the track list.
To reiterate: 9 is not a terrible album, and the songs can be fun if you don’t think about them too much. But as far as being an entry to the Saves the Day discography goes, it’s the least essential chapter in the band’s history to date.
2.5 / 5