A Day to Remember - What Separates Me from You
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Record Label: Victory Records
Sometimes people I meet online are surprised to find out I grew up more on sports than I did on music. While music is now my main focus, until I was about 16 my life was fairly devoted to basketball, and for periods of time to other sports, like the 5-year-old soccer recreational league and the eighth grade volleyball team. As a result of this upbringing I learned a lot about coaches and how the best ones interact with their players. Coaches don't really bother with the kid who they don't think has any potential; rather, they devote more time, energy and resources into the kids with a lot of potential. A struggling player is more likely to get a mouthful from his coach if the coach knows he can do better, while a similarly struggling player will be pat on the back by a coach who thinks that said player is doing the best he can.
It's this mindset that has me disappointed with A Day to Remember's latest offering, What Separates Me from You. Frontman Jeremy McKinnon and his band claimed that this album would surpass their last and most popular record, 2009's Homesick. Homesick brought the band to new levels of recognition among some groups while inciting new levels of hate among others. McKinnon said that since the album was written and recorded largely on the road while touring, he thought that A Day to Remember would be able to provide a much better effort with their next album.
Perhaps the problem with What Separates Me from You is the fact that the band had too much time in the studio. McKinnon's screams seem overproduced at times. "This Is the House That Doubt Built" has a synth fill during the last chorus. Is that a piano in the background of the chorus of "Better Off This Way"? Why do these things exist on an A Day to Remember record? Before you reach into your pocket and pull out the "This band is maturing and evolving" card, let's review some other quick points. The band still makes use of heavy chugging breakdowns and still has one mosh call present on this record, the exclamation of the word "Fight" at the beginning of "2nd Sucks".
So I guess what we can peg this as is a slight variation in A Day to Remember's established bro-core sound, the same bro-core sound that made Homesick a top five record in 2009 for me. And if this was a brand new band that released What Separates Me from You, I would probably applaud the record. But I know A Day to Remember and they can do better than this. It's not that the album is awful, or even bad. It's still a fun listen most of the way through and has a few clear standout tracks.
Opener "Sticks and Bricks" displays the heavier nature that McKinnon and quickly-rising producer Chad Gilbert hinted towards in the recording weeks of this record. McKinnon's screams, while being a hit-or-miss thing with most people, seem improved and they only sound overproduced in a select few portions. "All I Want" is probably the best song on the record, hearkening to the band's For Those Who Have Heart Days. The chorus is a perfect example of A Day to Remember's heavier pop-punk sound and is one of the easiest sing-alongs that the band has ever written. "It's Complicated" may very well be the poppiest track that ADTR has ever penned, most similar to Homesick's "Have Faith In Me". This song is more enjoyable upon repeat listens as it seems strange to hear such a relatively mellow track from this band at first.
The guitar work on this album is solid, as is evident during the verses of "This Is the House That Doubt Built", which again will remind fans of older A Day to Remember until that strange synth fill at the end. The album takes a bit of a dive for a while with the ultimately forgettable and blisteringly heavy "2nd Sucks". Luckily the track stands at only two and a half minutes, but it leads into "Better Off This Way", which would be better off without McKinnon's misplaced vocal melody.
Things turn up again with "All Signs Point to Lauderdale". It's as straightforward a pop punk track as can be expected from these boys, and although it reaffirms the fact that McKinnon's lyrics aren't a focal point of this album, it easily stands out. "You Be Tails, I'll Be Sonic" is the mediocre heavy middle ground that ties "All Signs Point to Lauderdale" to twin "Out Of Time", which seems to have more Chad Gilbert influence than anything else on What Separates Me from You. The hand claps in the chorus and McKinnon's vocal patterns are vaguely reminiscent of a New Found Glory track from yesteryear. Closer "If I Leave" took a few listens and is an ultimate grower but is a nice end to the record.
In the end, What Separates Me from You is a fun listen and at its best, it is an A Day to Remember record. It's something that is meant to be blasted and sung along to. Some people will hate it because of who wrote it, while others will instantly accept it for the same reason. Currently I'm caught in the middle but the album is quickly growing on me; it just doesn't have the massive appeal and lasting value that Homesick did. Perhaps it was a perfect storm of events in 2009 that caused A Day to Remember to come up with that record, but the expectations that it spawned are what makes What Separates Me from You a slight disappointment in 2010. This album is still a worthwhile listen and will undoubtedly be a staple on my iPod for the next couple of months, it's just a far cry from the well-rounded album that I know A Day to Remember is capable of producing.
Well written review. I liked/understood the sports reference pretty well. I'm currently about halfway through this and agree with most everything you said. I don't think it will catch on like Homesick but "You Be Tails, I'll Be Sonic" is a fantastic track and the clear standout to me.
Great review. I don't know what annoys me more, people who absolutely loath ADTR or people who adore them. I'm comfortable in that middle ground where I think they're a pretty good, albeit cheesy band.