Saves The Day’s 2013 self-titled eighth album was a power-pop delight, full of hopeful lyrics and sharp hooks. In many ways, ‘9’ is a very similar beast, even if the concept – it’s an album that tells the history of Saves The Day – is flawed from the off.
There is nothing duller than a band singing about being in a band, and the number of times Saves The Day hit the stage (or the road) extends far beyond the point of tedium. What makes a good autobiography doesn’t necessarily make for a good album, and that’s ultimately the problem with ‘9’.
That said, there’s a certain charm to the wide-eyed optimism displayed on opener ‘Saves The Day’ (yes, really), and it is rather infectious – even if the lyrics deserve to be shot into the sun (“Oh yeah, we’re writing a record / You’re gonna love it” is one monstrosity, “We love it when you sing along / Turn it up we’re Saves The Day” another). Surprisingly, this loveable strength of character just about carries through to ‘Kerouac and Cassady’, a foot-stomping indie-rock jam, but fades soon after. Indeed, by the time ‘Rendezvous’ rolls around, it all starts to feel contrived, as if ‘9’ is some bizarre effort of revisionism, with the over-the-top platitudes making up for the humdrum reality.
Inexplicably, with just one track left on the record, Saves The Day manage to snatch back some sense of victory. Closing number ‘29’ is a 21:30 minute medley of songs. Its runtime is half of ‘9’ – and it is a thrilling counterpoint to the mundane first half. The songwriting is sharp, the lyrics incisive and unguarded. The sunny disposition is dialled down, replaced with a vulnerability that shows the darker side of being in a band; car crashes, the struggles, and challenges of success. It’s a much more realistic distillation – and is all the better for it.
‘9’ is a Jekyll and Hyde record, with the real substance – and all of its best moments – found on side B. It’s just a shame the first half is a lyrical and conceptual dud…