There are the “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” trilogies – but a Saves the Day trilogy? With Under the Boards, Saves the Day releases the middle piece of its self-described trilogy that started with last year’s Sound the Alarm and will be completed with next year’s Daybreak. But what makes this trilogy especially remarkable when compared to the band’s other work is unclear.

Jessica Boullion
He might look good on stage, but his lyrics are another story. (Courtesy of Vargrant)

The New Jersey quartet keeps its basic formula: dismal lyrics on top of effervescent pop punk. And Chris Conley’s words are seriously dismal. Not even 30 seconds into the album, vocalist Conley sings “I wanna crawl under the ground and not come out / For 37 years when my life runs out / The demon in my mouth that spits words out / Made everybody hate me make me kill myself.”

It accurately sets the tone for the rest of the record. With only a few exceptions, Conley’s words shift between roundabout metaphors for loneliness and desperate pleas. On “Getaway,” he cries, “I don’t wanna live another day . The pain won’t let me get away.” He avoids the graphic descriptions of destroying his body that colored most of the songs on Sound the Alarm, and even tones down his trademark violent fantasies about dismembering enemies. The only instance is on “When I’m Not There”: “Cause I love to wonder how you’ll look without your teeth.”

Unfortunately, what Conley also leaves out is a compelling storyline and other characters that could make the trilogy cohesive. Instead the depression grows until the finale “Turning Over in My Tomb,” which features him – you guessed it – turning over in his tomb and still reporting on the desperation of himself and everyone else.

Even Conley’s voice has gotten whinier. Whereas pre-Sound the Alarm his croon was vulnerable and clear, the words now are often spit out through a nasally yelp that sounds as if he’s being punched in the stomach when he stretches a note.

The band is also pulled between the simple pop punk of its past and a larger, richer sound. This holds true even on tracks like “When I’m Not There,” which begins with a swell of airy guitars and noise before the band dissolves into the surging drums, jangly bass and palm-muted guitar. The song alternates between bouncy amusement and explosions of layered sound.

Throughout the album, it sounds as if the members are enamored with fiddling with their pedal boards. Fortunately, they change it up by ditching them to let loose and pogo up and down. Meanwhile, drummer Durijah Lang naturally meets the changes with the perfect fills. While slower than Sound the Alarm overall, Lang keeps the energy up in two-minute anthems like “Because You Are No Other” and creates tension in the poppy piano-lead “Lonely Nights.”

A bit gloomier and more experimental than others, Under the Boards is still undeniably a Saves the Day record, and as such, it’s really not disappointing. Where the lyrics fail (and they fail hard), the new musical directions pad it, and the mood varies enough to keep it engaging. But considered as a chapter of the greater trilogy, it fails to find a captivating narrative. The ending to the trilogy may rely on Daybreak, but it won’t be able to undo the damage done on the lyrics of Under the Boards.

Saves the Day

Under the Boards

Vagrant

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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