Sound — 7
Mayday Parade was formed in 2005 in Florida. They are essentially the natural evolution of bands like Blink-182 and have sounded pretty much like all the pop punk released in the past decade. Well, not anymore. The band began working on "Black Lines" in 2014, stating in interviews that they were going to make their most genuine and honest album - and I believe they did. "Black Lines" is the band's fifth studio album. There are twelve tracks on the album and it clocks in at just a little under forty-five minutes. "Keep in Mind, Transmogrification Is a New Technology" was released as the lead single in July. It was followed by the second single from the album, "Letting Go," in early October. The band has adopted a slightly rawer, and more honest image. Their music is a little grittier and the album production is a little less "bubblegum." These little changes add up to some major shifts in sound.
"One of Them Will Destroy the Other" opens up the album and pretty much immediately displays the changes in overall sound in the band. The vocals are on the verge of being screeched instead of sang, and the song has a neat little "breakdown" or maybe more of a buildup that definitely got my attention. The song has a wah-saturated solo, though short, that helps to reinforce the change in sound. "Just Out of Reach" says "I'm fine, the world can wait a little while" and essentially tells a story about denying everyone's expectations and doing what you want or need for yourself. "Hollow" makes some use of some heavy fuzz tones in the first few seconds, and moves to a really cool bassline and catchy vocals. I really like "Hollow" as it seems to really encompass my favorite things about the band's new sound. "Letting Go" is an acoustic guitar being strummed and Derek sing-songing along with it, though it has a bittersweet undertone to the track. "Let's Be Honest" borrows pretty heavily from "Vasoline" from STP, but changes it up enough to avoid lawsuits (I think), but the track changes gears before going too far down that road. The lead single from the album, "Keep in Mind, Transmogrification Is a New Technology," has some really nice moments and emotional pay-offs abound. The bassline gallops along on this one while the guitar has an almost atonal chiming going on - good stuff.
"Narrow" is a sad stripped-down acoustic piece - with acoustic instruments and vocals dominating the first half, but the track gets much heavier in the last 1/3 or so. "Underneath the Tide" actually reminds me of Bad Religion a little bit, and definitely shows the rawer side of the band. "All on Me" definitely still has a punk vibe present, but instead of the "pop" elements you would have previously heard with Mayday Parade, you instead just hear an intensity of emotion. "Until You're Big Enough" does a few different things through the track that keeps it interesting. "Look Up and See Infinity, Look Down and See Nothing" reminds me a lot of the Donnie Darko movie for some reason. It manages to capture the vibe in the music, and the treatment of the vocals remind me of the weird rabbit voice. "One of Us" is basically a pop punk song but minus being over-produced and neutered like most music in that genre. It is an awesome track to end the album.
Lyrics — 8
Derek Sanders has really left his comfort zone a little bit on this one, letting his voice get a little gritty and screechy as the lyrics dictated. I really appreciated his vocals on this album, especially compared to his earlier work with the band, which seemed very... homogeneous? The lyrics on the album also seem to be a little grittier and more honest. As an example of the lyrics, here are some from the track "One of Us": "You're one of us/ here's exactly what you'll need to make it through/ Good times and hard times/ We're here to fight for you/ March along/ Don't forget to tell the ones you love they matter/ When you break the bend/ Fall off again/ You'll find your love where it's always been/ You've gotta fight the beast inside/ And all the while enjoy the ride/ You've gotta keep an open mind/ And willingness to change/ Well God knows I've changed/ I talk like I'm wounded now/ I walk like I don't know how/ Maybe I could re-teach myself/ One foot in front of the other one."
Overall Impression — 7
I've talked to a few Mayday Parade fans who are everything from bummed to angry about this release. The only thing I can say is that you gotta let a band have room to grow, and what they're doing is really brave considering they have to know they're gambling with their fan base. I personally like the change of direction a lot. My favorite tracks from the album are "Keep in Mind, Transmogrification Is a New Technology," "One of Us," "Hollow" and "Let's Be Honest." This is definitely my favorite pop punk album so far this year.