Out of all of the albums that were released October 4th, this was the one I was least sure about. While A Lesson In Romantics was damn near perfection, Anywhere But Here, while still good, seemed to miss its mark. If only I could have predicted their recent return to form. From beginning to end, Mayday Parade has top-notch guitar parts, powerful drums, and the same sort of honest and emotional lyrics and melodies that set their debut apart. With their self-titled, Mayday Parade has written the sort of album everyone knew they were capable of, but was unsure they’d deliver.
Lead single “Oh Well, Oh Well” brings together everything that’s great about Mayday Parade, with strong vocals from Derek Sanders over a soft piano intro before guitars and drums kick in to take the song to a completely different level. The lyrics in the verses and bridge are somewhat reminiscent of the band’s debut, while the chorus could have easily fit in as a highlight on their sophomore release. Particularly with the line “tell your new friends that they don’t know you like I do,” the emotion this group is capable of really shines through. Though it’s the longest track on the album, it doesn’t drag at all and sets the tone perfectly for what’s to come.
Second track “No Heroes Allowed” is one of the most unique songs in the band’s catalogue, with its country-influenced guitars carried over from the sound of “Amber Lynn” from the Valdosta EP and strings accenting the beats, while “When You See My Friends” manages to capture Mayday Parade’s sound perfectly, with some of the best lyrics on the album alongside guitar parts that are dynamic and convey feeling as well as any voice could. “You’re Dead Wrong” has the well-written guitar parts expected from the band, with a good riff in the beginning and the sort of solo that’s rarely found in this type of music. “Priceless” keeps up with the interesting guitar parts, though the drums are a lot of what makes this song so great, especially in the bridge and acoustic chorus near the end.
“Stay” is the biggest standout on Mayday Parade, combining equal parts emotion and catchiness over dynamic instrumentation. The refrain will be stuck in your head for days, and the chorus is massive. It also has the album’s most memorable line: “All the love’s still there, I just don’t know what to do with it now.” It might be sad, but it’s beautiful writing. Though not all of the lyrics are quite up to that caliber, this is the album’s “Miserable At Best.” The transition between “Stay” and “Call Me Hopeless, But Not Romantic” is flawless, and the latter is a good counterpoint to the former, both lyrically and musically, as it questions, “where did you go?” over more traditional instrumental parts.
Another song closer to the sound of their debut, “A Shot Across The Bow” is an upbeat track that allows Jake Bundrick to show off his vocal abilities and features the sort of imagery fans of A Lesson In Romantics will love. “Everything’s An Illusion” has some great verse melodies, and the understated first chorus is really effective. The lyrics of this song seem to tie in to the music video for “Oh Well, Oh Well” quite a bit, leading me to believe there’s a much bigger concept to the album than has been let on thus far. It makes me really excited to see how deeply they delve into it outside of the record.
“I’d Rather Make Mistakes Than Nothing At All,” despite having a few weak lines, is another standout track, thanks to great guitars, melodies, and lyrics on the whole. If it had been the final song on the album, I don’t think I would have minded, except that “Without the Bitter the Sweet Isn’t As Sweet” and “Happy Endings Are Stories That Haven’t Ended Yet” are both such great songs. The former is a bit reminiscent of “I Swear This Time I Mean It,” relying on powerful vocals and lyrics over acoustic guitar for its main strength, while the latter features some well-written guitar parts and a really strong buildup to the solo. The backing vocals toward the end of the song sound great, and ending the album with only piano brings the album full circle and closes it nicely.
To self-title an album is a move generally reserved for what a band feels is their most representative work. Taking Back Sunday‘s release this year found them not only returning to their original lineup, but also returning to a place where they actually enjoyed the music they were making. Mayday Parade seems to have a similar feel to it. While this is the same band that made Anywhere But Here, you can tell that they actually meant what they were doing this time around. From the dynamic songwriting and guitar playing to the powerful drumming to the sort of lyrics and dual vocalists that is almost a complete return to A Lesson In Romantics, everything bleeds the same type of emotion they once had, and it is a triumphant return for a band some considered to be past their prime. Without a hint of doubt, it’s safe to say that this is Mayday Parade.