Sound — 7
A Day To Remember was formed in 2003 by several friends in Florida, and since that time they've garnered national attention with their unique brand of pop punk and metalcore. The members themselves say that early in their career they were told the mixing of pop punk and metalcore wouldn't work, but they've persevered and made a place for themselves. The album, "Common Courtesy," was a long time in the making due to a contract dispute with their label, Victory, which made it all the way to court. The album was released following the settling of the court case which allows the band to release the album themselves, while still contractually being obligated to release 2 more albums for Victory. The album is their 5th full length studio release and contains 13 tracks with a runtime of approximately 53 minutes. The first single was released quite a while ago (December 2012), which was "Violence (Enough Is Enough)" and was followed much later (October 7) just a day before the official digital release of the album with "Right Back at It Again." While the album has been released digitally, the physical release of the album has been delayed. The album was produced by Andrew Wade and, per interviews with the band, Tom Denney (the original lead guitarist, who left the band in 2009), though he isn't credited with production. In interviews there have been hints that Tom Denney may also be contributing to vocals, writing and guitar but I have not been able to confirm this, though he has been credited on 9 of the 13 tracks. Whether this means he helped in the writing process, or actually performed on the recording I cannot say. The band has also recently announced a deluxe edition of the album containing 16 tracks, instead of 13, that will be available in late November. The album starts out with the track "City of Ocala," which opens up like a fast paced pop punk ballad. The lyrics are extremely nostalgic focusing on where the band came from. "Right Back at It Again" opens up as a metalcore track, but transitions back to pop punk for most of the track with a little bit of metalcore near the end of the track. The third track, "Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're the Nail" is one of the heaviest songs on the album, though the choruses are definitely well within the realm of pop punk. "Dead and Buried" starts off heavy as well, and possibly the darkest track on the album musically, but it feels a little off-kilter with the lyrics which seem to be more about concern about the musical legacy the band will leave behind. "Best of Me" has an almost indie vibe to it, but the pop influence is definitely present. The lyrics sound like a break-up song, but I'm not sure if he's talking about a romantic interest or their record label. "I'm Already Gone" is an acoustic track, or at least predominantly acoustic, and this one is a kind of melancholy ballad about self-identity. Next is their lead single, "Violence (Enough Is Enough)" and this one is another heavy one (except for the pop punk choruses), though the lyrics have a kind of emo/mopey theme to them. "Life @ 11" is next, and this one is pretty much pop punk from start to finish with the exception of some borderline metalcore style vocals that pop up occasionally during the song. "I Surrender" is next, and this is the second mainly acoustic track on the album. This is another love song that I'm not sure if it is about a love interest or their record label. "Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way" is next up with an interesting intro basically made out of some sustained distorted chords and drumming, then when the vocals come in it gains momentum and is a really driving track. The lyrics for "Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way" are kind of confusing because I feel like they're talking about something specific that I'm not aware of with lyrics like, "I heard a little girl killed herself today/ that blood's on your hands/ It's on your hands/ when everyone knows your face, nothing's safe/ You'll live your life as a fucking target." Next is "End of Me" which opens up as an acoustic track, but the rhythm guitar is the only thing that stays acoustic, with electric lead guitar, etc. Each time I hear this track it flip-flops from one of my favorite tracks from the album to one of my least favorite and back again. The track "The Document Speaks for Itself" is a metalcore romp that is a straight on attack against their record label. Of course, the chorus is pop punk on this one as well. The album closes out with the track "I Remember," which is another pop punk track from start to finish, and also very nostalgic with the lyrics dealing with early touring and playing to close to empty venues. The last several minutes of the track is just audio of the band members telling old road stories. After listening to the album I feel like I know the members of the band a little better than before I listened. Unfortunately, their metalcore songs/passages seem really generic to me. They seem to shine much more with their pop punk offerings, but I have to say it is much better than on their earlier albums.
Lyrics — 8
Jeremy McKinnon is the founding vocalist of the band, and is credited with the writing of all the lyrics on the album. He has proven that he is able to sing well in both genres that the band plays within, and with time his songwriting seems to have become more and more personal. The vocal performance can't be faulted, but also nothing stood out as spectacular, either - the vocal performance was adequate. Lead guitarist, Kevin Skaff, is also credited with some of the vocals (mostly backing vocals) on the album, and I have no complaints on his performance, either. As I had stated previously, the lyrics are very personal and this definitely does give them more impact and seems to work really well with the pop punk portion of their music. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the track, "City of Ocala": "Remember way back when? They said this life was a dream/ Well it still is, I never wanna wake/ Standing in my backyard at our old practice space/ Hard to hold back the tears from streaming down my face/ That was then, this is now/ You can't run before you go learn how, and you won't/ This is our corner of the world/ Where we can come to be ignored/ This is our point where we return/ This is where I came from/ This is where I came from/ Remember way back when? This place seemed bigger to me/ Learned how to play guitar, and made my mom watch me/ We always knew back then, just where I'd be right now/ We never questioned it, was more like when and how."
Overall Impression — 7
Immediately what you realize upon listening to "Common Courtesy" is that this is by far the most personal album the band has released, with a lot of their personal history, feelings, and recent events transparently used in their songs. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and the narrative viewpoint always seems to work well for pop punk. The album also seems to radiate enthusiasm, which is something that I wasn't really feeling with their last release. The band apparently started with 40+ songs according to interviews, and the songs included on the album were the songs that made the cut - and this is where I fall off the bandwagon. While there are some really good tracks on the album, there are also some very mediocre tracks. My favorite tracks from the album would have to be "Violence (Enough Is Enough)," and "City of Ocala" (because I like the nostalgic narrative). While neither pop punk or metalcore are my favorite genres, the band has successfully made the two sound good together vs. back in their early days where it sounded like a gimmick to my ears. I'm interested to see what direction they take this over time.