Dusting 'Em Off
Revisiting an album, a film, or an event on its anniversary

Dusting ‘Em Off: Saves the Day – Through Being Cool

on May 14, 2011, 8:00am

It’s 2011, but you wouldn’t know that from some of the tours going on recently. Pete Yorn and Ben Kweller? Coheed and Cambria? Are you sure it’s 2011? Also on that list of bands who were huge when I was in high school is Saves the Day. They’ve got a forthcoming album (Daybreak, due out this fall) and a summer tour with the Get Up Kids (themselves on the tail end of a reunion/new album tour). And yet, common reactions to this news are either “Who?” or “Wait, they’re still together?”.

They are still together, they did write a new album, and yes, it is really 2011. Saves the Day is still going strong, but it’s no secret that their fan base loves the classics. Around the time controversial album In Reverie was released (2003), many die-hard STD fans crawled into the back catalogue and never came out. But it being 2011 and all, perhaps it’s been a while since you spun some classic STD on a sunny afternoon. I’d like to nominate 1999 release Through Being Cool for your next trip down memory lane.

While most fans need no introduction to this record, it’s worth revisiting for many reasons. Its tracklist is a veritable master course on the band: “Shoulder to the Wheel”, “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic”, “Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots”, and “Third Engine” to name just a few. These tracks (the first two in particular) have aged so well that they haven’t really aged at all; they sound just as vital 12 years down the road as they did pre-cell phones and September 11th. Maybe that’s partially because the idea of the road trip is an iconic part of American culture:

“We drive/Dave steps on the gas/The world that’s flying by is slick and smooth/Big waves of light/the radio’s playing Queen/And we’re rocking out” –from “Shoulder to the Wheel”

“Rocks Tonic Juice Magic” also boasts one of lead singer Chris Conley’s earlier forays into lyrical self-mortification. Starting with a now-iconic image (“Let me take this awkward saw/run it across your thighs”), the lyrics concern eyeball removal and the offering of the protagonist’s heart to step on, both literally and figuratively. “I’d buy you lemonade right now if you were here/then I’d throw it in your face/and I’d listen to you cry,” Conley wails, heartbroken in every sense of the word.

Other prime breakup material on this album includes “My Sweet Fracture” (“Could you tell me the next time that you’re choking/I’ll run right over to shove some dirt right down your throat”) and “You Vandal” (“I woke up to my cold sheets and the smell of New Jersey/… my ribs have parted ways/said ‘we’re not going to protect this heart you have’”).

The songs still burn with all the sincerity of emotion Conley penned into them a dozen years ago, partly due to the tart sting of the lyrics but also due to skillful instrumentation. Judicious use of electric guitar and an aggressive percussion section remind the listener that STD shows were once not as acoustic as they are now. The intro to “Shoulder to the Wheel” and all of “Banned From the Back Porch” burn with the punk-rock intensity of this energy. “Banned” in particular rocks pretty hard, the kind of song that makes kids of any generation thrash a little harder in the mosh pit.

Alternative Press put Through Being Cool on their 1999 list of most influential albums; to that accolade we might also add that it was the most influential album of Saves the Day’s career. Their follow-up, Stay What You Are, is equally popular and contains a similar number of notable singles, but Through Being Cool is the one that established Saves the Day as a force on the music scene while supplying them with setlist material for the rest of their career. Brush the dust off this puppy, and believe again in the magic that was cruising with the windows rolled down and the music turned up, “Shoulder to the Wheel” blasting on your stereo, circa 1999.

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