Album Review: Common Courtesy

A Day to Remember is somewhat of an anomaly in the rock music scene. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the band is known for perfectly meshing bubblegum hooks with crushing breakdowns and screams, leaving many to define its sound as “popcore.” I couldn’t think of a better genre myself, and the band is in full tradition on its newest album Common Courtesy. After a long stretch of trouble with its record label, the band eventually released the album independently, and you can tell that the events of the past few years have changed the band a bit. The album has a softer tone, so much so that the “core” part of its sound almost sounds out of place. Where the album shines is in the formulaic songs the band is known for, and this is not a bad thing.

The first song “City of Ocala,” is a straight up pop-punk rager. It’s a great way to begin the album, on which the production sounds great. It’s fun, nostalgic and a standout across the album for sure.

The next two songs are also highlights. “Right Back at It Again” and “Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail” are both very stereotypical A Day to Remember songs, but they are among the best songs on the album because the band is so successful at crafting songs like these. They’re hooky as hell; they have breakdowns where you would expect; they’re just fun.

The album stagnates a bit after this, but already there’s not as much screaming as previous records, and there are a number of softer numbers, such as “I’m Already Gone,” “I Surrender” and “End of Me.” This is certainly not an unwelcome change, as these songs are well crafted and melodically sound. Lyrically they’re not bad either, but it’s kind of jarring after what we’ve expected from the past. They still deserve a listen, however, and those who are not a fan of the harder edge of A Day to Remember will really dig these tracks.

The songs that really do throw down are “Violence (Enough is Enough)” and “Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way,” with the latter sounding like a cut off a Lamb of God album, strangely enough. The rest of the album floats in this area of popcore safety, so when the heavier hitting tracks come out, they feel jarring and don’t quite seem to fit in. This isn’t inherently true, as the band has to stay true to its post-hardcore roots, but for whatever reason, the group chose to only include a couple of these tracks instead of alternating between sounds.

The final tracks “The Document Speaks for Itself” and “I Remember” are both great ending tracks that bring back that A Day to Remember sound. The former track has an absolutely wonderful breakdown, while the latter is a nostalgic look at the past, with five minutes of the nine-minute track devoted to banter between bandmates about memories of being on tour. There is quite a bit of banter after some of the tracks on this album, which provides a unique look at the process of recording the album and the band’s inner dynamics.

Common Courtesy is a good A Day to Remember album. The band has softened up a bit but still knows how to bust out a hook-laden beast of a song. You’ve got to stick with what you know, and the band seems to be just fine at doing that. This album is worth a listen for sure, and even if you don’t like all of it, chances are you’ll find something that will grab you and make you want to rock out.