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Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Common Courtesy is the fifth studio album by American metalcore/pop punk band A Day to Remember. It was met with generally favorable reviews, with critics praising the album’s sound. “Right Back at It Again” charted at number 33 on the Alternative Songs, and at number 40 on the Mainstream Rock Songs charts in the U.S.
I feel like, first of all, I should highlight the fact that I used to be a rather noncommittal fan of ADTR’s. I’d listened to a few of their songs, and some of them clicked, but most of them were just too pop-sounding for me. Although I’ve known about them since And Their Name was Treason (2005), my own musical tastes impeded our relationship from ever flourishing. I think ADTR and I are finally starting to get back on the right foot and at the perfect time – because Common Courtesy, even to a skeptical listener such as myself, blew me away. I listen to this record relentlessly.
There’s no other way to explain it. Their sound hasn’t changed – Jeremy McKinnon’s vocals still complement an intuitive melding of metalcore and pop punk; Neil Westfall and Kevin Skaff’s alternately rugged and clean guitar playing remains true to 2010’s What Separates Me from You; and Joshua Woodard on bass and Alex Shelnutt on drums underline each tune with the same conviction and power as earlier records. There’s no real explanation as to why I would, any given day, rate previous ADTR records at best 3’s while Common Courtesy ripped my heart right outta my hand and gave it to the music.
I guess I can start with the single, “Right Back at It Again,” clocking in at track #2, which is simply a classic A Day to Remember song. It opens with screaming vocals from McKinnon and then dives into a short intro with rhythmic, hard-hitting instrumentation from Westfall, Skaff, Woodard and Shelnutt. Then McKinnon cuts back in, clean vocals this time, his voice adding a note of intensity that you just know to expect from A Day to Remember. It’s all uphill from there.
And, honestly, the entire album is uphill from there. One of the last lines in “Right Back at It Again” goes: “Brace for impact!” And that’s exactly what you should do.
“Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail” follows the album’s first single, containing one of my favorite moments of the whole CD; these lines delivered by McKinnon, calm then convictional:
I reserve my right to feel uncomfortable
Reserve my right to be afraid
I make mistakes, and I am humbled every step of the way
I want to be a better person
I wanna know the master plan
Cast your stones, cast your judgement
You don’t make me who I am
And I cannot tell you how many shitty days at work that this bridge has gotten me through. I wanna do a post on it sometime, of my favorite “pick me up” songs to listen to (because they’re not like other pick-me-up songs), but that’s for another time. I just… you can’t go wrong, listening to this song.
“Dead & Buried” (#5) through “Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way” (#10) are all strong songs, not to be missed, but they’re followed by “End of Me,” which is hard to beat on this record. “End of Me” is soft but strong, a powerful stringing together of ingenious instrumentation with heartfelt vocals.
You know me all too well, and I can’t suppress the memories
You’re gone, and I can tell that I’ve lost more than you’ll ever see
Don’t say that it’s not fair that you’re not the person you wanna be
‘Cause you’ll be the end of me
And then, after another really good song, we have “I Remember” (#13), a song anyone who’s ever grown up and gone off the beaten path can relate to. Yes, it’s about what they remember, as a band touring the world, leaving loved one behind, etc., but I often find myself singing along with the lyrics “I remember when I first saw the country. I remember sleeping in the van. Said goodbye to friends and family ’cause they could never understand.”
I think that’s one of the most important things in music these days – you don’t have to necessarily relate to the topic of a song to find some part of yourself somewhere. Maybe it’s in a lyric, maybe it’s in the heartbeat of the bass line, or in the driving force of the kick drum, or even it’s the band’s sound, and their connection to the fans, and how they pull together year after year to make great music.
Maybe that’s what this record really taps into that makes it such a standout album for A Day to Remember. And not even just them, but for the genre.