There’s a close-up of a grapefruit on the cover of Saves the Day’s new self-titled release, which turns out to be a fitting image for the music therein. The veteran pop punk band’s eighth studio album mixes tart vocal tension with sugary hooks for their most energetic effort since 2001’s Stay What You Are.
For fans, this return to a more accessible formula is a welcome shift from the band’s recent, moodier offerings. Appropriately, the album was crowd-funded via pledges that also earned contributors prizes such as handwritten lyrics or the chance to write the setlist for their hometown show. The love between band and audience was obvious at Saves The Day’s Riot Fest performance in Chicago, where new tracks “Ring Pop” and “In the in Between” gelled easily with older material.
Saves the Day’s one drawback is the risk of sugar rush. Founding vocalist Chris Conley achieves a new, intriguing tension with his distinctive, slightly nasal croon, bending the ends of his melodies up into counter-melodic kicks. But, the frenetic pacing of his lyrics and spun-sugar lightness of the subject matter (“If it’s the last thing that we do/ I wanna sing along with you,” he intones on candy-titled and coated “Ring Pop”) threaten to give repeat listeners a toothache.
The 11 bite-sized tracks clock in at just under 33 minutes total, making for a part-exhilarating, part-exhausting romp. The formula grows tired in a few places, as on the relatively slow “Beyond All of Time” and semi-obnoxious “The Tide of Our Times”. But, Saves the Day burns out before it can wear out its welcome, and skillful mixing keeps the sweetness from overwhelming the punk half of the equation.
In the end, it’s gratifying to see Conley persist — through 15 years and nearly as many lineup changes — and create new music worthy of standing beside his early catalogue highlights. Saves the Day puts the “pop” in pop punk, but it’s a sweet formula.
Essential Tracks: “In the in Between”, “Ring Pop”