Review Summary: A delayed review for an even more delayed album.
There was a lot to like with this album - fun guitar work, actual acoustic songs, and significantly better screaming than was offered on WSMFY (I don't know why they went higher-pitched and more distorted on Sticks and Bricks and You Be Tails, I'll Be Sonic, maybe it was Victory's attempt to copy BMTH or the like). In any case, Jeremy's growls are more impactful and understandable than ever, and they really stand out on tracks like "The Document" and "Hammer/Nail". The heavy songs on this album were done so much more effectively than the last release, and "The Document" would not have been very far out of place on For Those Who Have Heart". There is even variety between the metalcore-ish songs. Dead & Buried offers a unique verse structure, with the bridge being significantly larger than the second verse (which has a total of 10 words used). And "Life Lessons", at least for the first half, is much more thrashy than anything since "Why Walk on Water When We've got Boats".
But this album offers much more than just a strong return to ADTR's heavy side - I actually believe that their melodic side is showcased even more prominently. "Right Back at it Again" and "Life @ 11" are two of the catchiest songs that Jeremy has ever penned, the former being a true highlight of the album (containing a great solo by Kevin Skaff, an interesting - but somehow fitting - beatboxed section, and a five-part harmonized "Biiiiiiittttcchhh" to close out the song). I am a fan of "City of Ocala", but I have to say that the intro to the opener is one hell of a tease. After a great Millencollin-esque opening riff, the skate punk feel of the intro is immediately swallowed by a much larger sound. It flows very well into "Right Back at It Again", incorporating the song title into the closing section. I love the mosh call at the start of "Right Back at it Again". Jeremy screams "We're coming out swinging", which is a fairly accurate way of describing many of the songs on this album.
The next impressive aspect of this album was the full incorporation of their acoustic work. "I Surrender" is certainly my favorite of the three, but "I'm Already Gone" definitely embraces the acoustic sound more. "End of Me" is a combination of their acoustic and alternative sounds. It makes for an interesting listen, but it was not one of my favorites of the album. It may be an odd criticism, but I felt as if "End of Me" and "Best of Me", despite very different sounds, were too ordinary-rock sounding. I just don't feel like that sound fits well with ADTR. "All I Want" was a good song, but it just seemed like a radio-rock version of "My Life for Hire". "Best of Me" just has an odd radio feel, like it could be a crappy Foo Fighters song. "End of Me" is better, with great instrumentation and an unforgettable bridge, but it still sounds weird sandwiched between "Life Lessons" and "The Document".
I have few real complaints about Common Courtesy, as it's my second-favorite album by ADTR, but there were a few things I felt that McKinnon & Crew could have improved upon. I already griped enough about "Best of Me", so I'll move on to my second least-favorite, "Violence". Now, before everyone jumps on me for demoting one of ADTR's biggest songs right now, I have to say that my chief concern with this song is the chorus. I am a huge fan of screamed choruses, i.e, "Live to Kill" and "Stand Amid the Roar" by Silverstein and "A Goat in Sheep's Rosary" by From Autumn to Ashes", but the songwriting was not Jeremy's best. The lyrics drag the song down in the chorus and the third verse significantly. I commend Jeremy for stepping out of his comfort zone and writing about the world, and not just his world. The issue is that after an amazing opening riff, verse, and sung refrain, the chorus just sucks. The second verse is great as well, and the vocal layering on the 2nd refrain is epic, but the rest of the song falls apart due to a transition from writing externally to writing personally. The buildup to the final breakdown has the lyrics "What's the world gonna say when I call your bluff, punk"", and I think that the transition away from the grander topic kind of defeats the purpose of a semi-political song.
The lyrical content of these songs is, for the most part, well-done, with notable lyrical highlights in "Sometimes You're the Hammer", "Dead and Buried", and "The Document". ADTR is much better at displaying emotion than telling a story, but Jeremy has definitely stepped his game up with visuals in this album. His ability to describe ADTR's beginnings and experiences in the opening tracks and the closer, "I Remember" help to really showcase this album's purpose. It could have easily been the memorial to what had been ADTR, but as it stands today, Common Courtesy is a recap of ADTR's history and a musical look into the future.
I really like what the guys have put together, and I applaud their guts for sticking themselves out there in the middle of a lawsuit. The skits and conversations between songs add to the overall listening experience, and the conclusion to "I Remember" is one of my favorite album endings. Hopefully we won't have to wait so long for the next one.
1. Sometimes You're the Hammer, Sometimes You're the Nail
2. Right Back At it Again
3. The Document Speaks for Itself
4. I Surrender
- A quick word about the bonus tracks. I found "Leave All the Lights On" to be excellent, "Good Things" to be good, and "Same Book but Never the Same Page" to be at the lower end of the ADTR catalog.