Daybreak, Saves the Day’s latest offering and first for new label Razor & Tie, has seen the kind of delays and setback usually reserved for Guns N' Roses albums. In the four years since the release of their last full-length, Under the Boards, three-quarters of the band’s lineup have come and gone. Although initially intended to be released shortly after that album, Daybreak arrives after the longest gap between Saves the Day albums to date.
The album opens with the over 10-and-a-half-minute "Jesus of Suburbia"-esque title track. The most surprising thing about it is how well it actually works. Sure, the electronic drums in the midsection are a little cheesy (Smoking Popes tried something similar to this with “Excuse Me, Coach”), but for the most part it’s a success, and feels more like four separate entities than a long, drawn-out rock opera. It’s clear from the outset that the band has come a long, long way from the Lifetime aping of their early years.
From then on, it’s much more conventional Saves the Day affair (although those annoying electronic drums do show up again in “Chameleon”). “Let It All Go” and “Deranged & Desperate” would fit nicely on 2001's Stay What You Are, were it not for the nasally vocal approach Conley adopted somewhere around 2006. The mid-tempo “Z” has an eerie, brooding vibe that recalls the group’s most under-appreciated album, 2003's In Reverie.
Lyrically, there is a tinge of optimism not felt from the band in quite some time, especially on the second half of the album. But the first half is just as depressing as their last couple offerings. “1984”, perhaps the catchiest song on the album, opens with the phrase “I’m dead inside and dying more every day.”
Daybreak is the first Saves the Day album since 1998’s Can’t Slow Down to not feature guitarist David Soloway. His presence is missed, but the biggest difference between Daybreak and Under the Boards is the lack of rhythm section of Manuel Carrera and Durijah Lang, both members of Glassjaw, who added a hint of complexity and technicality to that album’s otherwise simple pop-rock songs. Daybreak doesn't have that, but the songs are good enough to stand on their own.
Even though Conley is the only remaining member of the Under the Boards lineup, Daybreak feels like a logical followup to that album, belated as it may be. The album concludes a trilogy that began with 2006's Sound the Alarm and continued with the following year's Under the Boards. It isn't the greatest thing that’s ever been laid to tape under the Saves the Day moniker, but it is a respectable addition to an already beloved catalog. By this point, the group have carved out their own niche in the emo/pop-punk world, and fans belonging to that sect will find plenty to like here.