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POP MUSIC REVIEW

The Day as power source

October 25, 2003|Dean Kuipers | Special to The Times

Saves the Day never wanted to be emo when it was punk, now it's neither anymore. But don't tell any of the umpteen kids frantically moshing Thursday at the Hollywood Palladium.

If anything, Saves the Day has shed the last vestiges of both its punk bite and its penchant for the grotesque, which still clung like unwanted pet hair to its mostly pop 2001 album, "Stay What You Are." The group has emerged as a fully formed power pop outfit.

At its sharpest, this incarnation of Saves the Day can hit fast and clean, sounding on the macabre "As Your Ghost Takes Flight" like a ghoulish Plimsouls or a Cheap Trick soundtrack to a slasher flick, but without the stylishness. Its members dressed in T-shirts and jeans, STD projects the antirock look.

On material from the new album, "In Reverie," the band takes more of a cue from aw-shucks college-boy heroes Weezer, still indulging in lovelorn mopery but wrapping it in sugary Beatles-esque vocal harmonies. "Driving in the Dark" is an example, with guitars chopping away angrily at a vocal bed that reveals the band's pop ambitions.

And why not? Former whiner Chris Conley seemed to be having a genuinely good time. Even though the lyrics are still mostly about complicated, paralyzed relationships and death, there are huge singalong moments, as on "Freakish," when the band cut the music and let the fans sing: "Well here I am / I don't know how to say this / The only thing I know is awkward silence."

"Anywhere With You," STD's new single, jangles along like a reworded version of Weezer's "Buddy Holly." Except that "Buddy Holly" is kind of an upbeat, ironic love song, whereas "Anywhere" is all about loss and communing with ghosts.

The fans danced their hearts out anyway. Welcome to the new power pop.

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