When Mayday Parade’s self-released EP (which would later be picked up by Fearless) dropped in 2006, it seemed even then that bigger things lay ahead for the band. Besides the Fever You Can’t Sweat Out-flavored “When I Get Home You’re So Dead,” which would get a bit of a makeover for their full-length bow A Lesson in Romantics, the songs weren’t quite there yet, and a few tended to drag on a bit (“Three Cheers for Five Years” approached the six-minute mark), but they had that sound, just the right blend of pop sensibility and rock crunch, that suggested inevitable future success.
It hasn’t exactly been a meteoric rise, but with sales of Romantics surpassing 130,000 units, Mayday Parade earned a major label billing for its follow-up Anywhere but Here, as well as a pairing with hitmaking producer David Bendeth. The resulting album retains a little of the sunny pop-punk of their previous releases– album opener “Kids in Love,” which is very much in an All-American Rejects vein, is a good example– but mostly goes in a darker pop-rock direction, reminiscent of Sugarcult’s Palm Trees and Power Lines. It’s generally likable and probably has a better shot at catching on with rock audiences without losing the pop element, though established fans might be a little disappointed that there’s nothing as immediately snappy as “When I Get Home You’re So Dead” or “Jamie All Over.”
As fans are undoubtedly already aware, Anywhere but Here is the first Mayday Parade recording to feature Derek Sanders as the primary lead vocalist, stepping in for the departed Jason Lancaster (now with Go Radio). Sanders proves himself a capable vocalist, and though he’s considerably less earnest-sounding and more nondescript than Lancaster, he’s a good fit for the band’s current sound. Lyrically, his songs deal with the typical relationship issues, but largely avoid overly melodramatic and cringe-inducing moments.
Nostalgia is an ever-present pop-punk theme, and Mayday Parade revisit it on “Kids in Love,” before diving into the also ubiquitous subject, heartbreak. On “Anywhere but Here,” Sanders is filling the void of a crumbling relationship with another lover, and just trying to take it one step at a time on “Still Breathing.” On the single “The Silence,” the focus turns to a female protagonist who’s been left cold and lonely in the wake of an apparent breakup.
”Bruised and Scarred” is a bit of a low point, as it’s pretty run-of-the-mill both lyrically (“Bruised and scarred, save me from this broken heart”) and musically, but it sets up for the strong duo of “If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet” and “Save Your Heart.” The former is propelled by a driving rhythm and bright harmonies, while the latter is a very radio-ready power ballad. If Atlantic were to ship “Save Your Heart” to Top 40 radio, I think it could spark a breakthrough for the band. It has all the makings of a major hit, with a huge rise of a chorus and lyrics that seem poised to make every teenage girl who’s repeatedly getting hurt– and let’s face it, that’s a large portion of the band’s fanbase anyway– claim it as “my song.”
As is perhaps expected with albums of this type, some of the songs are going to bleed together, and it happens here with “Get Up” and “Center of Attention,” which are mid-tempo pop songs without much of a hook or anything interesting musically to set them apart. However, “I Swear This Time I Mean It” follows, and as an acoustic-led lullaby ballad, it definitely distinguishes itself from the rest of the songs on the set. It probably would have served best as the closer, as the actual final track “The End” is another fairly flat pop-rock number.
With album number two, Mayday Parade, in the aftermath of a major lineup change, have given themselves something of a new identity, and for the most part, they wear it well. Anywhere but Here isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s mostly enjoyable and definitely has its bright spots that, with the right promotion, could launch them into the limelight. Mayday Parade always had the instincts necessary for stardom, and this record pushes them further in that direction.