Mayday Parade
A Lesson In Romantics


4.5
superb

Review

by Adam Knott EMERITUS
December 29th, 2008 | 206 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A Lesson In Romantics is like most pop-punk. It's just a hell of a lot better.

Once you accept a single, underlying premise, pop-punk music becomes a lot easier to understand and appreciate: most pop-punk bands aren’t trying to change music, let alone the world. A genre known for being tight-fisted where experimentation is concerned, and shamelessly giving birth to failure after failure of month-long next-big-things, it is much maligned for its narrow spectrum of sounds and the perceived absence of any sort of ambition. As soon as you get past that, though, and stop worrying about whether it has as much influential clout as Thrice’s latest album, or whether it will have an impact on what the next generation listens to, it becomes evident that pop-punk does have ambition, and it does also have purpose. Fail though many do, the genre is (largely) a free-for-all of a million different bands all trying to do the same thing better than everyone else. And if you ask me, that’s a pretty intriguing dynamic.

Hooks

Everybody knows you can’t do good pop-punk without heavy hooks that a generation of teenagers can memorise after just two listens; catchiness is the name of the game, and A Lesson In Romantics is rife with it. It’s the mainstay – the cornerstone of everything this album achieves – and it’s everywhere. Breathless, melodic and rhythmically brilliant, not a single song on this record escapes your grasp. Take the first and last tracks – Jamie All Over and You Be The Anchor… respectively - and you have the album’s core qualities exemplified, serving as a bracket to 10 more tracks which will ingrain themselves in your eardrums just as effortlessly. Jamie All Over’s passionate cries merge so well with the broken guitar riffs and energetic drumming you’ve heard a million times before, but it’s just better. You Be The Anchor’s melodramatic and softly-spoken verses and choruses float around arpeggiated guitars you’ll recognise from elsewhere, but it’s just better. It teeters on the edge of being pretentious but always manages to stay the right side of the line between obnoxious and moving. The aforementioned closer in particular builds to a crescendo through its gradually quickening rhythm section and faintly heavenly production.

The simple, sing-a-long vocal melodies and riffs are what keep the album on its feet when it might otherwise drift into mediocrity; Black Cat is a perfect example of a song that has basically nothing about it except for its catchy, stuttering refrain. This, however, is a rarity – it’s certainly the only time that a hook saves a song, because usually it’s another powerful ingredient in the fairly typical formula. Mayday Parade’s knack for constructing songs around pulsating, hyper-active choruses is just superior to most people in the game.

Heartbreaks

Near the centre of the album lies a track which should very definitely seem out of place, but somehow is able to blend seamlessly with more pacy numbers either side of it. Miserable At Best is a sappy piano-led ode to an ex-girlfriend which revolves around the line ‘I can live without you/But without you I’ll be miserable at best’. Honest? Yeah. Moving? Yeah. Over the top? Perhaps. But it carries the sincerity off remarkably well, and the bridge takes the song into a place the record doesn’t otherwise dare tread anywhere near, that spine-tingling realisation that the emotive lyrics are genuinely felt and not fabricated or exaggerated; indeed, the aforementioned ‘miserable at best’ lyric shows a self-awareness most pop-punk bands abandon in favour of hyperbole and cliché – it may not be Shakespeare, but it’s damn fine in places.

That’s not to say the album steers clear of clichés – Walk On Water or Drown contains the almost obligatory mention of stars in its hook-line ‘As I’m looking to the sky to count the stars, I wonder if you see them where you are’ – but where the songwriting does allow itself to become less than stellar, it is usually propped up firstly by context, and secondly by the extremely fun nature of the pop-punk sound that this album captures so well. And for the most part, the lyrics are intriguing and complement the music fantastically; every track seems to comprise a well-balanced mix of the heavy and the light-hearted, with only a few exceptions. Despite the subject matter pretty much always being a girl, the lyrics range from break-ups to missing her, from leaving her to wanting her. When Walk On Water Or Drown throws at you ‘and you got here just in time / to let me know I was worth saving / if nothing more than for the heart’, you realise, if you haven’t already, that a lot of thought and heart does go into writing this stuff. Not a second of it is lazy.

Emotion

Obviously, there are certain things that make this album a Mayday Parade album, however much it follows the formula. Jake Bundrick‘s drumming ensures that the angry tracks sound angry and desperate from start to finish (If You Wanted A Song Written...), and that the more contemplative material stays on its feet and compelling (I'd Hate To Be You...), and combined with Jeremy Lenzo’s bass work makes certain that every chorus explodes in time-honoured fashion. The vocals don’t sound over-produced, and have a whispered quality about them, even when they’re shouted, that makes Derek Sanders’ and Lenzo’s delivery one of the most convincing, and occasionally shiver-inducing, to grace power-pop in the 21st Century.

Mayday Parade are doubtless a talented set of musicians, and have some technical ability, but let’s not get this twisted: A Lesson In Romantics is made (and boy, is it made) by the songwriting. There’s nothing particularly admirable about how they do things except that the things everyone else does – the hooks, the heart, the anthems and the energy – are so damn well executed every time. If you're a pop-punk fan at all, you're bound to love it, as it speeds through 45 minutes of music that you'll remember every single second of. It pushes very few boundaries, it’s derivative and it’s sometimes predictable. It’s not In Defense of the Genre or Deja Entendu. But thanks to a bucketload of energy, enough variation to keep it from becoming samey, and a track listing which allows the momentum to swing breathlessly between ideas and melodies, it brushes just about as close to pop-punk perfection as you’ve ever heard and likely ever will do. If pop-punk is a genre where a million people are trying to do the same thing better than everyone else, then this album sets the bar that other people are reaching for, and it sets it very, very high indeed.

Recommended

Jamie All Over
Miserable At Best
Walk On Water Or Drown
You Be The Anchor...



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user ratings (594)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Tempertemperature (4)
Its time you learned your Lesson....

JPAC (1.5)
What the hell is wrong with you people? This is NOT a classic album! Mayday Parade is really just Si...

gophersister1 (4.5)
Mayday Parade takes every emotion available to humans, puts it into words, and pairs it with a beat ...

InRegardsToSelf (5)
Now altogether I know that I practically praised this band but this is just plainly an amazing album...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Knott-
Emeritus
December 29th 2008


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album so, so needed a non-track-by-track.

shortz
December 29th 2008


201 Comments


I don't know if I read it wrong, but your summary is a little awkward I think.

Good review, if I was still into pop-punk I'd check this out

Knott-
Emeritus
December 29th 2008


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I had so many different options for a summary and I went with that, although I think actually it would be better if I just took the first sentence out.

Thanks :]This Message Edited On 12.29.08

ToWhatEnd
December 29th 2008


3172 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't remember the last time I read a review that I agreed this much with. Seriously your writing is great and I loved your straight to the point criticisms of how people (wrongly) view this genre. Dug both the format you laid out and how you expressed your opinion on this. Fantastic work.

gaslightanthem
December 29th 2008


5209 Comments


sounds interesting will look into this

IAmInsect
December 29th 2008


3800 Comments


i want this

Knott-
Emeritus
December 29th 2008


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yesss you do

Asiatic667
December 29th 2008


4648 Comments


When I Get Home You're So Dead
sounds just like I think Panic at the disco would if they had kept thier sound from AFYCSO

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
December 30th 2008


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Interesting concept to the review Adam… and I’d say on the whole that it works. Good stuff and worthy of a pos.
I actually have not listened to this album as yet and your review has encouraged me to do so some time in the new year.


Knott-
Emeritus
December 30th 2008


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Davey :]

It really is pretty much my favourite pop-punk album of all-time, possibly except ...Is A Real Boy. Although the 2 are comPLETEly different.

VicariousIntent
January 22nd 2009


1594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is fantastic review that needs more comments. You're dead on. I was going to review this, but I don't see the need now. Fantastic job.

Knott-
Emeritus
January 23rd 2009


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks :]

I'm bumping this because far too many people are reading a 1.5 review of an album which is just great ^^

VicariousIntent
January 24th 2009


1594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

There is no way this is a 1.5. I think you're completely right. I mean, Mayday Parade capitalizes on the "generics" of the genre to get their message across. I see them more as aesthetics. The vocal harmonies, soaring choruses and memorable lyrical lines are all part of getting the message and emotion across. It's all a very satisfying listening experience.

toyour
October 18th 2009


95 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

What's not to love about this album? They have such clever lyrics.. The dual vocals.. the epic thing that is Miserable At Best.. the drums in Anchors.. the emotion Jason and Derek's voices clearly make together..
'..Is it too soon to say perfect?'

Zip
October 18th 2009


5312 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

too bad that one guy left, oh well, the new album kicked ass

toyour
October 18th 2009


95 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yep, Anywhere But Here is really good.
A part of me will always miss Jason's vocals but I guess that's what Go Radio is for.

Deathcar
January 12th 2010


1534 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Solid and fun pop-punk, with better than average songwriting, what's not to like?

Knott-
Emeritus
January 12th 2010


10198 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is so close to being the stupidest thing I have rated as a 5..

catherinelizeth
January 22nd 2010


2 Comments


I agree with your review a hundred percent. Derecks voice is empowering, absolutely love this album !

bungy
March 20th 2010


8843 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is so so so so so much better than the last pop punk I listened to. (Plain White T's)



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