Are albums this good supposed to be this depressing?
Saves The Day’s sixth album, Under The Boards (which is the second album of the band’s planned trilogy), dives into brain trust’s Chris Conley’s mind, which we find is a very dark place. While the first installment of the trilogy, 2006’s Sound The Alarm, was all fire and brimstone, Boards focuses on picking up the pieces.
With the help of Marc Hudson and Eric Stenman, the band produced this thirteen-track trek through despair, and the title track, which opens the album, immediately lets you know what kind of journey you are in for. Paced by a simple guitar riff that crawls underneath your skin, Conley’s vocals are on point, as he painfully begins to pour out his innermost feelings. The track then segues right away into “Radio,” an upbeat song with an undeniable catchy chorus. “Can’t Stay The Same” slightly reminds me of “Anywhere With You,” with how the verses lead into the chorus, while “Get Fucked Up,” a mid-paced track about attempting to get over someone, is beautifully depressing.
Jingly piano notes set the tempo on “Lonely Nights,” which features impeccable rhythm work from bassist Manny Carrero and drummer Durijah Lang. Carrero and Lang are no strangers though, as they’ve done this before as members of Glassjaw. Their presence on this album is definitely felt, as their rhythm work shines throughout Under The Boards. And, in what may be simultaneously one of the best and most uncomfortable Saves The Day tracks ever, Conley bares his soul on “Stay.” Propelled by a delicately played acoustic guitar, Conley wails “I thought you’d save me/from myself with love/but alone is how I stay, from the womb to the grave.”
An atmospheric vibe overtakes the first twenty seconds of “Getaway” until a biting guitar riff and huge drums interject and Conley bitterly snarls that “the pain won’t let me getaway.” Include an interesting chant in the interlude, and you got yourself an instant fan favorite. But it’s the final three tracks that, while the lowest point personally for Conley, are the highest points on Under The Boards. “Kaleidoscope” is an erratic track with hard hitting guitar parts and a bass line that snakes in and out. “Woe” is a hard hitting track that puts the full downward spiral of Conley on display, as brooding guitars envelop the track around Conley’s pleas of “why am I even here?/everyone would be/better without me.” But if “Woe” is the breaking point, the darkest point of Conley’s life, then “Turning Over In My Tomb” is the beginning of the recovery. The track comes full circle with the album, as Conley finds himself under the boards once again in this mid-paced closer, ending Under The Boards with the beginning of optimism and hope.
With Under The Boards, Conley puts his personal struggles and demons on his sleeve throughout, as this is the most somber, raw, and personal album the band has ever put out. But despite being so doom and gloom lyrically, the album shines musically, as the band incorporates many aspects of their past sound into a new mold, thanks largely in part to the superb bass work and drumming from Carrero and Lang. Yes, Under The Boards is dark, moody, and dismal, and it’s never sounded better.