Saves the Day – Saves the Day

Just like all the other prefab subgenres that have been foisted on rock fans through the years, emo has seen peaks and valleys since its inception into rock nomenclature. So, to set the parameters for this review, let’s establish the three eras of emo.  That’s right, the three eras of emo.

Emo’s first era, which we we’ll call E1, spans the mid ’80s through the late ’90s. This period goes from the Dischord Records crew’s “emotional hardcore,” through the “proto-screamo” of the Ebullition Records bunch, and proceeds into the indie/emo crossover music of bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and The Promise Ring. Emo’s second era, E2, comprises the period when emo changed from a punk-based subgenre into a viable commercial force and, eventually, a generic no-no. E2 is more or less the last 12 years – and its progress is personified by the path from Alkaline Trio to Jimmy Eat World to (oh God, no) Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. In the last decade the term “emo” has apparently become an embarrassment to the very folks that performed that kind of music and had those haircuts. And now we’re moving into E3, which I’ll christen the “new wave of emo.” Apparently today’s emo kids are doing exactly what the LGBT community did with “queer.” They’re appropriating the designation and, in the process, turning the vilest of epithets into a term of empowerment. For some, it’s cool to be emo again. This is progress.

Saves The Day is a band from the E2 era that for some reason was never able to translate its substantial influence into big bucks and celebrity status. The band stayed its course through the waning stages of E2 and is now assuming figurehead status in the emerging E3 period. In this way, one could say that STD is the Velvet Underground of E2: The band didn’t make a platinum album or sell out arenas, but everyone who saw them “back in the day” formed their own bands. And these bands are the up-and-comers of E3.

After a period with the quasi-indie Vagrant Records and a subsequent stint on a major label, STD has returned to Equal Vision Records to release an eponymous album and reap due respect. And judging from the enthusiastic turnout at STD’s recent show at The Loft, the proverbial kids are getting it.

The sound remains the same. The only difference in Saves The Day and the rest of the band’s umpteen other albums is its overall disposition. For some reason STD auteur Chris Conley has jettisoned the adolescent angst and yearning of yore in favor of a more mature and even upbeat outlook. The band is supertight, providing just enough sonic pop’n’crunch to propel the songs out of the mire of wimpiness. Still, there’s the sticking point of Conley’s voice.

Conley vocals are all in a two-note range. One note is the highest note Conley can possibly sing. And the other note is one step higher. (This was painfully apparent at the recent Atlanta show when Conley blew his voice around 30 minutes into a heroic two hour set.) The resulting melodies either have an endearing little-boy-lost quality or are just downright grating and precocious – depending on your perspective. (I’ll side with grating and precocious.)

Still, it’s undeniable that Conley knows how to write a catchy pop song. So, while I can’t say that I get it exactly, I must begrudgingly admit that there is something of substance going on here. Really, it could be worse. I shudder to think what awaits us in a decade or so when E4 begins.

Saves The Day
Saves The Day
[Rory/Equal Vision]