The debut full-length is a unique moment in any band’s career. In many cases, an act has been playing and writing together for some time, perfecting a particular set of songs that defines its sound. That first release has to catch people’s attention and simply impress, whether that be by songwriting abilities, sheer technical prowess, or overall creativity. A lot of bands will change sound over time, expand, mature, and hopefully release a definitive masterpiece opus later on. Some bands get worse. Some release one or two things and then either burn out or fade away. In every case, however, listeners will always have that first foray into the public conscious to go back to. This week, I picked a song from each of my three favorite debut records. When you’re done with this, go check out the rest of these albums; they’re among the best I’ve heard, period.
1. “When I Get Home, You’re So Dead” – Mayday Parade
I first heard this song on the 2006 Ernie Ball Battle Of The Bands Compilation, a full two years before I’d fall in love with A Lesson In Romantics. At the time, I wasn’t really paying attention to the individual artists on the compilation, I was just listening for the sake of having something to listen to. As a result, I had a total “oh shit!” moment when I got my first taste of the band’s debut full-length. The production on this version is a huge upgrade from both that compilation version and the one from Tales Told By Dead Friends, and there’s both a certain sense of urgency and great feel for space that most bands in this genre simply don’t have. The bridge in this song is among the best the band has ever written. The guitar and drum parts are great from the very first seconds of the song, and the lyrics are at once biting and poetic. The interplay between Derek Sanders’ and Jason Lancaster’s voices makes for perhaps the best combination ever to come out of the scene. All of this is consistent throughout A Lesson In Romantics, and that high level of songwriting and musicianship adds up to make this record not only my favorite debut, but also one of my most-played albums and one of my top five favorite records of all time.
2. “It’s So Simple” – Saosin
I was really struggling to pick a song from this album to represent the whole, because I wanted to showcase the band’s tremendous instrumental capabilities, a little aggression, and one of the massive choruses. At the same time, I kind of wanted to just choose one of the singles. In the end, either way would’ve been an appropriate choice, but I think “It’s So Simple” is probably the best representative of Saosin as a whole. It’s got that energetic quality throughout, but leaves way for ambient guitar parts in the verses, has plenty of great fills from Alex Rodriguez, and a chorus that manages to get stuck in your head without being hooky in the slightest. The riffage and lyricism throughout are fantastic, and I’d take Cove Reber’s performances on this record over almost any other vocalist out there. Some people yearn for the days of an Anthony Green-fronted Saosin, but I’ve still got a strong hankering for more music like this.
3. “The Great Escape” – Boys Like Girls
When I think back to the transition from senior year of high school to freshman year of college, there isn’t a single band that comes to mind stronger than Boys Like Girls. From the AOL Acoustic Sessions of “The Great Escape,” “Thunder,” and “Let Go” to the show at nearby IUP to the show at faraway Time Warner Cable Amphitheater (R.I.P.) to the countless listens in between, Boys Like Girls is the album that defines one of the most important parts of my life. I know each and every note and word of this album front to back and have memories to match almost each and every one. Those memories are without a doubt why this record makes my list of top debut albums, but that wouldn’t be the case if the songs weren’t great. “The Great Escape” is maybe the greatest of the bunch, with its flawless hook and youthful exuberance standing as perhaps the strongest parts. The drums at the beginning are a great counterpoint to the guitar part, and the song as a whole is constructed perfectly to be one of the best pop-rock songs of the past decade. I could pick it apart more, but I don’t really need to; the song holds its own without me hyping it up more than I already have.