For Dark and Dying Days: 10 Years of Sound The Alarm

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Sound The Alarm is a dark and ugly album, the punk rock equivalent of aimless anxiety and vicious, guttural self-loathing. Within the course of the album’s 36 minutes, songwriter Chris Conley spills his guts in a hundred different ways, acting out an intense period of end-of-the-line internal aggression with an incredible fire. The 13 songs of Sound The Alarm see Saves The Day spitting out a personal doomsday onto record, with the burning, desperate feeling that this catharsis is saving a life. If not into these songs, where would all the fire go?

That haunting question is the very reason why Sound The Alarm, Saves The Day’s 2006 set, is still important 10 years later. These songs perform verbally and musically the darkest images of self-hatred, images that are often so potent that they’re best not removed from the context of their panicked pop-punk homes. But for all the paranoia, the violence, the depression, and the anxiety, Sound The Alarm is deeply and overtly anthemic. It survives in Saves The Day’s pristine and varied discography because it serves a particular purpose, more so than any other record the band has created in the two decades of its existence.

From the immediacy of the record’s opening line—delivered with the most venom of Conley’s career—that purpose is clear. Burning a door in the back of my mind. While it always seems like Sound The Alarm is such a necessary thing for the speaker’s (whether or not it be Conley) mental health, a catharsis for his deepest, most guarded personal hell, it works so well because the album returns the favor for the listener.

Of the hundreds, maybe thousands of albums I’ve listened to in my life, Sound The Alarm stands tall as the most personally cathartic of them all. When I sat down to write about the record, I looked back at the time I’ve spent with it and realized how much I needed, and still need, Sound The Alarm in my life. It’s an album for the worst days; it explodes with frustration aimed in every direction. And yet, it never forces these feelings upon the listener—these melodies crawl into my brain and out my own throat, releasing all the tension out into the open air. A musical exorcism, a step toward feeling better.

Sound The Alarm tells a lonely and desperate tale, but it’s most ubiquitous message is one of not being alone in this, of never being alone in this. That feeling of the walls closing in on you, of your own personal world in apocalypse, of your neurons firing at too-rapid pace…Sound The Alarm encapsulates those feelings with razor-sharp riffs and breakneck tempos. One second, it rejects friendship for paranoia (“Bones,” “Delusional”), the next, it laments isolation and lack of understanding (“Sound The Alarm”). It documents all the nuances of personal crisis: from the deep, self-loathing come down (“Don’t Know Why”) to the unabashed hatred at the world for doing this to you (“The End”). Sound The Alarm is an album for the times when you just can’t stand to be around people but you need something to understand the difficulty and unknowability of the ugliness you’re dealing with.

Sound The Alarm isn’t the end of a road, though. It’s a single step away from the world, never far enough away that you can’t go back. It’s a beginning, a burst of blistering aggression that can and will be resolved. 2007’s Under The Boards and 2011’s Daybreak tell the story of resolution. Sound The Alarm serves as a reminder that the utter inability to handle the world is momentary. The feelings will pass, will eventually turn into enlightenment and life will go on. There is a way out.

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