For as long as I can recall, A Day to Remember have been that strange mixture of incredibly divisive and inarguably popular within the scene. Being a (female) ADTR fan in 2009 looked like this: If people (let’s be real; mostly men) weren’t calling you “soft” for liking the band to begin with, they were heavily implying that you only liked the ~pretty~ tracks, like “If It Means a Lot to You” or “Have Faith In Me” (which are both bangers, by the way). The band apparently were too hardcore for the pop punk bros, and too pop punk for the hardcore kids. To put a finer and entirely subjective point on that observation: then as now, both the pop-punk and hardcore purists were enraged by a band that refuses to call themselves either, yet excels at both. When Homesick dropped ten years ago, I was a senior in high school. While they weren’t my absolute favorite band, they were up there. I wasn’t writing about music yet at the time, but I loved the record. Upon listening as a fully formed adult ten years later, my opinion remains largely unchanged.
The first thing that strikes me is how well this record has aged. Its sound – at least, amongst the places where hardcore and pop punk intersect – could have been released today. At the same time, the songs in retrospect listen like a time capsule of sorts. They hold up as a perfect example of where the scene’s music was at the time – a microcosm that takes every existing element and represents it perfectly, while never fully committing to it. That’s the apparent ethos of A Day to Remember, and you can hear it on each track: the reason for their popularity and the reason for their divisiveness are one and the same. They are no more willing to subscribe to the mindset of the clique-ish purists of hardcore than they are to the quirky “I hate this town” ethos of pop punk, despite dabbling in and mastering both sounds. I can honestly see why it’s aggravating to some; it’s sort of like that one kid everyone knew in school who didn’t obsess over your favorite subject the way you did, but always seemed to have the right answers in class.
Thematically, Homesick revolves around several recurring points: pressures of the music industry, realities of life on the road, revenge on those who’ve wronged you and internal struggles with sense of identity/being true to oneself. Throughout the years, McKinnon has demonstrated his incredibly underrated prowess as a lyricist. Nowhere is this more evident on this record than on tracks like “Another Song About the Weekend” or the album’s namesake, “Homesick.” Perhaps that’s why the deluxe version featured acoustic versions of those two tracks in particular.
While not my favorite effort from the band in the year 2019, it’s easy to listen to it and hear how it was the launching point for everything that followed it in the past decade, culminating for this listener in 2013’s liberation-from-Victory-Records-testimonial Common Courtesy. Everything else aside, I’m hard-pressed to think of many other albums that had so many memorable moments (meme-orable?) that had very little to do with the actual music – from the cough in “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of” to the gang vocals-turned punch line that open the record to the meme-ready ‘Disrespect your surroundings’ on “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End”, this album is serves not only as a flawless embodiment of damn near every scene trend of its time, but as something that still today is recognizable even beyond the band’s considerable fanbase. If that doesn’t make something iconic, what does?