Lawsuits and delays aside, A Day to Remember’s infinitely hyped fifth record has finally arrived. For a band that mixes pop-punk and metalcore (creating the so-called genre of ‘popcore’), the Ocala, Florida natives are at the peak of their game. They hone their craft especially well on this release, and they provide both some of their heaviest and softest material to date.
So, when really congregating my thoughts about Common Courtesy, trying to figure out exactly how I feel about the 50+ minute congregation of breakdowns, fast punk sections, poppy vocals, and slow, melodic moments, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot accurately rate this album. Being the huge fan that I am, it’s hard to review it subjectively without sacrificing some of my own love for it. Because while A Day to Remember has become a genre-defining act over the past few years (regardless of whether you think they’re the best at what they do or not), they’re polarizing.
Some people will hate this album. Some people will love it. But it’s an A Day to Remember album through and through, not giving anything to attract non-fans and continuing to satisfy current fans. And boy, is this album satisfying.
Opener “City of Ocala”, whose title may or may not allude to Less Than Jake’s “City of Gainesville”, is a pop-punk jam fest. It’s speedy, it’s catchy, and it pays homage to the band’s hometown. The track reminds listeners of the quintet’s beginnings, and through its beaming riffage and honest-to-heart lyrics, it should feel right at home for longtime fans. “Right Back at It Again” follows in the same vein, only faster and more powerful. It’s arguably the album’s standout song, being an accurate representation of A Day to Remember’s typical poppiness and heaviness. The first two tracks foreshadow a venture into more metallic zones. They lead up to “Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail”, a piledriver of a song. The opening breakdown is relentless, and Jeremy McKinnon matches the brutality with his screams, which have a newfound energy and anger to them. The same can be said of the band’s sound as a whole; it feels as fast, compact, and in-your-face as ever.
Just like the third track, “Dead and Buried” continues to flaunt the band’s double bass drum beats and guitar chugs. For fans of What Separates Me From You, “Best of Me” is sure to tickle your fancy. It’s a prime example of the band’s succulent, more mid-tempo material. While not being the album’s deepest cut, it’s an excellent transitional track into “I’m Already Gone”, an “If It Means a Lot to You”-esque acoustic ballad. In “Gone”, McKinnon’s vocals are beautifully layered, creating Common Courtesy’s most sensitive – and perhaps most memorable – cut. Watch out YouTubers, because hundreds of pop-punk kids will be covering this song soon.
“Life @ 11” is a fantastic rock anthem; it’s catchy, jammy, and downright delicious. McKinnon’s cry for help halfway through the track ignites a firestorm of punk instrumentation — a moment sure to cause chills. However, the final few songs can barely keep up with the sheer immensity of the first eight. “I Surrender” and “End of Me” are solid slower tracks featuring both acoustic and electric guitars, while the slamfest “Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way” and the not-so-subtly titled “The Document Speaks for Itself” are straight-up mosh calls.
It’s obvious that Common Courtesy is full of some of A Day to Remember’s best content to date. But the album’s sole, overarching problem is that it doesn’t do anything new. Sure, it expands the band’s musical extremes, features a handful of feverishly catchy, tightly-made songs, and sees the members reaching new levels of technical mastery. But at the same time, this record doesn’t find the metal players moving left or right to join hands with non-fans. Instead, it finds them moving up. If anything, Common Courtesy should propel the band to new heights. And that’s definitely not a bad thing.
This album will probably end up being one of my favorite albums of 2013. In fact, at the moment, it’s running hand-in-hand with Twenty | One | Pilots‘ Vessel for #1. Coming from a hardcore fan of the band, this is no surprise. So, when trying to decide whether or not it’s for you, just know that if you’ve never listened to these guys before, this is a great place to start, and if you’ve never liked them before, this album definitely won’t convert you. Oh, and if you’re a big fan like me, I doubt you’re even reading this review right now. You’ve probably already made your own opinion on it — and I’m pretty sure you love it.
Although my rating isn’t 100% representative of how much I love this record, Common Courtesy is still a superb collection of songs. It’s catchy, it’s heavy, it’s fun, it’s meaningful, and it’s the perfect addition to the quintet’s discography.
Metalcore | ADTR Records