Review Summary: "Don't leave yet, it's still early and I haven't even said a word."
Time is both a band’s best friend and worst enemy. A countless number of artists have struck gold early on in their careers, releasing classic albums that increase in merit and influence over time while fans watch the artists fade into irrelevance, struggling to cling on to what fame they have left. It’s kind of sad, really, to see bands that were once making heartfelt music now grasping at straws, forcing their creative juices to recirculate, when the passion is no longer there. They resort to booking reunion and anniversary tours, reissuing albums, and making attempts at a stylistic return to form, when, in reality, nothing will ever help them live up to the gigantic expectations created by a classic debut or sophomore release. While Saves the Day have possibly overstayed their welcome and do exemplify this cycle to a degree, they have generally withstood the test of time, maintaining a dedicated fanbase and remaining as a reputable and highly influential pop punk band. So hey, let’s cut them a break (and pretend that Daybreak
and Under the Boards
don't exist), because after all, the New Jersey legends released not one, not two, but three classic albums early on in their career, the first of which being Can’t Slow Down
So it’s no secret (and certainly no surprise) that Saves the Day worshipped their New Jersey brethren in Lifetime, and no album in their discography makes it more obvious than Can’t Slow Down
. From the barrage of power chords, melodic guitar leads, bouncing bass lines and rapid punk drum beats to Chris Conley’s oscillating shout (that is nearly identical to Ari Katz’ urgent yet sinfully catchy vocal delivery), the young, soon-to-be pop punk vets mirrored Lifetime in almost every aspect. Needless to say, the resulting fourteen track album is a relentlessly catchy, thirty minute sing-along that showcases Saves the Day before they found their true identity.
Now, the question is, does the album’s striking similarities to Lifetime make Can’t Slow Down any less enjoyable, or for that matter, any less of a pop punk classic? Absolutely not. However, a listener’s connection with the album may not be instantaneous. At first, fourteen tracks may be a bit overwhelming, especially considering the similarities between them, with the exception of fan-favorite acoustic track, “Three Miles Down.” Though no two tracks on the album differ drastically, they are almost all littered with little ear-catching moments to quickly help you differentiate one song from another, whether it be “The Choke’s” unforgettable outro, the melancholic, cathartic build up in “Always Ten Feet Tall,” or the gang vocals in “Handsome Boy.” These obvious, instantly memorable moments will be the ones that suck the listener in on the first few spins of the record, but with each listen it becomes more apparent that almost every moment on the album is memorable. In no time at all, a few catchy stand out tracks turn into one cohesive, inseparable thirty minute ride just begging to be recited word for word.
While Can’t Slow Down is undeniably a classic album, it is not without its flaws. In addition to the somewhat repetitive and limited nature of the tracks, one of the more glaring issues is with Conley’s lyrics, which are strong overall but at times make little to no sense. For the sake of maintaining a concise, catchy, and quick vocal delivery, he will often rearrange a line to an almost nonsensical point. Take “Seeing It This Way” for example, in which one of the lines reads, “With all this complicated can’t get past the thought of thinking, wonder whether hope or understanding rings truer.” Personally, I can’t help but laugh to myself each time I hear Conley recall how he “breathed in water smells” down at “some boating dock.” Can’t Slow Down is not the only Saves the Day album to feature awkwardly phrased lyrics (see the mantra in “Firefly” off Stay What You Are
), but it is safe to say that the sheer catchiness and overall content of the lyrics makes up for any questionable word choices or omissions.
Considering everything that Saves the Day have accomplished over the course of an 18-year career, Can’t Slow Down
is still undoubtedly a staple of their discography, and any fan of the band or genre overlooking this phenomenal debut is doing himself a disservice. This album represents the glory days of pop punk before stagnation, when bands like Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, and The Get Up Kids were all doing radically different things for the genre, for all the right reasons. Although this isn’t Saves the Day’s self-definitive magnum opus, Can’t Slow Down
should be regarded as the exciting beginning of a band who went on to change pop punk as we know it and leave a lasting impression on many bands to come.