Review Summary: Criminally overlooked, In Reverie is the lucid dream you don't want to awake from.
To speak of it with high praise or even simply hold it in a positive light would be a forbidden taboo with many of the musically "elite". Pop-Punk. That ugly hyphenated word has been tarnishing Punk's image for too long. Sure it can be catchy, but the meanings are shallow and the hooks are typically cliche. And for true Punk fans, there's just no angst or balls
Well this is true for most music. A genre gives a very general representation of an overall sound, but it should not be used as a positive or negative adjective. One could not say something is too “pop-punkish” as a negative attribute any more than calling a book too “science fictiony”. An artist may fit into one genre more than another but it is up to the artist to create a meaningful work of art that transcends lazy labeling.
Saves The Day have not always achieved this artistic transcendence. Can’t Slow Down
and even Through Being Cool
were catchy albums. They resonated well with their target audience, displaying enough cathartic teenage angst to help high schoolers make it through the day-to-day bullying, but not much more. Not until Stay What You Are
did they have an artistic breakthrough. Focusing on the overall art of sound and less on catchiness (although it was still very catchy), a pop-punk classic was born.
So the natural next step for any band would be what? Well not what Saves The Day did with In Reverie
. While common with certain genres and bands (Radiohead’s Kid A
), drastic stylistic changes in Pop-Punk is uncommon due to the demographics of the bands’ audience and their unwillingness to accept change. This is a shame and unfortunate since this album is a complete work of brilliance. Furthermore, a true artist should not create to appease an audience, but rather create something that is a true reflection of the artist’s own ideas.
Abandoning almost everything from previous albums and even the Pop-Punk genre in general, In Reverie
is a beautiful exploration of the meaning of life and its frustrations and rewards. No longer is Chris Conley concerned with girls and trivial teenage angst, but more so the abstract elements that life confuses us with. With an unaffected vocal performance, Conley opts out of the whininess we have all come to know and love, and sings with a restrained timbre. The approach reminds me of the French director Robert Bresson, who believed films should show little to no emotion from the actors, because it is the viewers/listeners' job to interpret what emotion should be conveyed. Along with this new vocal style, unique chord structures unwind as the album floats through space and time on its own level of dream-like existence.
Bouncy doo-wop throwback verses would make a child of the 50s smile with nostalgia during ‘Anywhere With You’ until they are pummeled with the dissonant crunchy guitars that weave in and out, never to allow the listener to settle into the happy danceable beats. Conley utilizes a technique in the song that becomes a common theme throughout the album: personifying a feeling. There is no “you”, but the song is actually about feeling complete within himself. In fact, Conley stated in an interview that there isn’t one song on the album about a person despite many references to a “you” or a “she”. The theme resurfaces in ‘Driving In The Dark’. The Chorus beams, “Ever since I first saw you standing in the black frozen night, I’ve been blind”, which tells of the longing to find peace in the world and not in a person, and the ultimate conclusion of the lack of meaning in life. When the poetic lyrics are not pondering meaning and emptiness in life thy focus on the feeling of transcendence. ‘In Reverie’ and ‘In My Waking Life’ would be the perfect soundtrack to Richard Linklater’s A Waking Life
, which portrays a dreamlike sequence of philosophical diatribes as the protagonist floats into various people’s conversations. In addition, ‘Monkey’ almost details what one of these philosophical debates could have been, as Conley tries to fight “The Man” and all of the world’s inevitabilities and prove to himself that free will does exist. He sarcastically sings “Let’s pretend there’s no meaning, just stare at the ceiling, and play dead for your whole life.”
The lyrics are also littered with alliteration. Although adding little to substance, the word play creates a more sophisticated and poetic flow that complements the ideas portrayed. For instance, ‘Where Are You’, the most aggressive song on the album, describes Conley’s Crohns disease with lines such as “slipping slowly south”, and ‘What Went Wrong’ paints a picture over strange chord progressions and eerie synths with lines such as “sang a song of sorrow slowly” and “Walter wore women’s clothes”.
While the lyrics are vivid and poetic, the music is magical. Dismissing the idea that Pop-Punk needs power chords, In Reverie
displays jazzy guitar lines, odd time signatures (‘Rise’), and My Bloody Valentine style noise blending that perfectly complement the dream-like mood throughout. Organs chime (‘Rise’), synths screech (‘What Went Wrong’), and guitars utilize feedback (‘Morning in the Moonlight’, 'Wednesday The Third') to the fullest effect. The album concludes with arguably the best track, ‘Tomorrow Too Late’. Beautiful chords are played high on the neck of the guitar while a wavering organ provides the background melody until the syncopated rhythm and shoegazy distortion crashes in. Ending on a high note after themes of the meaningless of life saturated much of the album, Conley assures the listener that there is comfort out there. Personifying a feeling once again, he insists “I need you now, tomorrow is much too late”, needing to accept life for what it is and not longing for something that does not exist.
This albums is Conley’s proudest achievement, as he has said numerous times. It is just too bad there isn’t much of an audience for it: After complaining “fans” dismissed it, the bassist Eben D’Amico left the band, and his incredible contribution to the overall sound is severely missed in the band’s latest efforts. The rest of the crew regressed back into trying to please the fans, and it seems Saves The Day will never be the blessing to Pop-Punk that they once were.