Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Album Review: Show Me The Blueprints. by Days N Daze (by Emma Prew)

Days N Daze are a band that I ought to have listened to a hell of a lot more than I have. As arguably one of the most prolific bands of the ‘folk punk’ sub-genre for over a decade, I’m ashamed to say that I am not that familiar with most of their back catalogue. I know, and I call myself a folk punk fan! Sure, I’ve heard them on various playlists over the years and I did actually review their last album, Crustfall, in 2017 which I liked at the time but I’ve certainly not given them as much air time as they perhaps deserve.

This was until their eighth album and their debut with Fat Wreck Chords, Show Me The Blueprints., was released last month. I wouldn’t say the fact that the album is on Fat Wreck piqued my interest as such, but I guess it has made the band more likely to appear on my radar. I actually checked out the new album after hearing its opening track, Flurry Rush, on TNSRecords’ NEW PUNK FRIDAY Spotify playlist a few weeks ago – that playlist is well worth checking out. The album has been on constant rotation since then and has fast become one of my favourite albums of 2020.

The album opens with the aforementioned Flurry Rush. The song begins with a simple and relatively mid-tempo acoustic guitar part before the pace soon picks up with the introduction of banjo and trumpet which instantly feels quintessentially Days N Daze. When the vocals come in they are fast paced and, at least on first listen, it’s a little tricky to take in all of what vocalist Jesse Sendejas is singing. Of course, I didn’t listen just once and it’s well worth taking the time to take notice of the lyrics. Flurry Rush is about suffering from anxiety and in particular how you can often feel like you have no reason to be feeling a certain way because you ‘have it better than most’. I’m sure a lot of people will be able to relate to and find comfort in lyrics like ‘But shit I can’t complain, Compared to many folks I got it great, So, why's it always seem, That everything was better yesterday.’ The second song, Ditches, is a little slower in pace than the album’s opening track. This song sees fellow vocalist Whitney Flynn take over from Jesse on lead vocals as she sings a pretty contemplative and emotional song. At first it seems to be quite a sad song – ‘I’m so desperate for a home, But I can’t stop myself from running, I get wasted and I’ll hide away.’ – but there’s also a sense of hopefulness to be taken from the song. The lines ‘Just dry your tears, ’Cause there more to life, Proving that you’re worth a damn, When you’ve always been good enough.’ are powerful stuff indeed.

LibrYUM is up next and wastes no time in getting going. A fast-paced and catchy thrashgrass song if ever there was one, Days N Daze managed to pack so much into this one song that I’m not sure I can do it justice with my inadequate words. In short, Librium is about quitting drugs but it’s also about feeling like you need to replace one drug with another, finding being sober over stimulating and, you know, all-round feelings of existential dread. The chorus which is literally just ‘La la la la la la la la la la, Whoa-oh’ is insanely catchy while the vocals throughout the verses are franticly compelling, at times verging on screams. LibrYUM is a triumph of song and so is the next song – Saboteurs. Opening with a jangly combination of banjo and mandolin, alongside some harmonica, Saboteurs is, at first, strikingly different to the previous song. It’s slower, that’s for sure, but it also feels calmer. What’s similar about the two songs, however, is their brutally honest lyrical content. In Saboteurs, Jesse sings of struggles with mental health. There’s a great sense of storytelling that really draws you into the song as Jesse first talks of holidaying to a beautiful scenic location but not feeling able to leave the car, before recounting other similar life experiences. It can’t be easy to talk about such feelings, never mind put them down in a song, but I for one am grateful that Jesse has. ‘Everything was fine and dandy, But now everything is fucked, And there ain’t no rhyme or reason for my seething, I just wanna be okay but I feel stuck.’

If you like your folk punk catchy then look no further than the fifth song of Show Me The Blueprints., My Darling Dopamine. I mean this in both a musical sense – rhythmic mandolin strumming and melodious trumpet playing – and lyrics-wise. Jesse and Whitney manage to make a somewhat dark topic, poor mental health, feel like a fun time. I imagine that’s not quite the intention here but it does make for a memorable song. I particularly enjoy how Jesse and Whitney sing in harmony in the chorus, really drilling the words home – ‘Oh, my darling dopamine, Does the reward outweigh the risk? Well I'm on the fence, Is a numbing normalcy on tap, Worth a week trembling and sick? And every time I tell myself's the last, ’Cause goddamn the price is high, To rot in comfort this gruelling routine, I’ve succumb to has grown so fucking old, I just want out.’. Days N Daze slow things down once more for Rewind, the shortest song on the album. Opening with the question ‘Am I insane?’ immediately sets the tone as Whitney tries to express what’s going on in her head. Rewind is about trying to slow down and make amends to things that you’ve done in the past in an attempt to start anew – ‘And sometimes you gotta find, A little rewind, rewind in your mind, Even if it’s a lie.’

Opening with that distinct Days N Daze blend of string instruments and trumpet, Addvice will get your head nodding in no time at all. It almost feels like the vocals are sung at a faster pace than the instruments are played at which keeps you paying attention throughout. The songs sees Jesse and Whitney taking it in turns to sing verses and coming together for the chorus. This gives a sense that they share similar feelings when it comes to dealing with the mental illness that is prevalent throughout Show Me The Blueprints. and not least on this track. Addvice is about self medicating, whether that be with drugs or alcohol, to help numb the pain that comes with suffering from depression. Jesse and Whitney admit that this is a problem and they try to tell themselves that they’ll try to be better but, of course, that is easier said than done. None Exempt begins with a mournful trumpet part and some almost mariachi or polka style strumming. It instantly sounds unlike anything we’ve heard on the album so far, which perhaps makes sense given that this song tackles slightly a different subject matter. Here Days N Daze take on more of a political stance with their lyrics, which could be deemed more typical of the folk punk genre than the mental health topic they’ve covered thus far. That’s not to say that this sounds especially like anything else – Days N Daze certainly seem to have a knack for sounding unique. None Exempt takes aim at the wealthy and privileged few who are in control. Understandably, Jesse and Whitney get quite angry throughout the song, particularly when they sing/scream ‘We've got rapists and thieves, In control of our country, When you know all the things, That they've done and they've said, How the fuck are you not chanting, Off with their heads.’.

As we draw towards the end of Show Me The Blueprints., we get to possibly the saddest song on the album. Fast Track is a slower song with some wonderful soft melodies throughout its duration that accompany, but do not detract from, Whitney’s heart-wrenching tale. I hope I’m not interpreting the song incorrectly but Fast Track seems to be about a lost loved one and the hurt and confusion that that can leave you with. I cannot relate and so feel unqualified to comment further but a highlight of the song for me was the line ‘The music inside your head, Played softer when I was there.’ in the second verse and then, towards the end of the song, ‘The music inside my head, Plays louder without you here.’ Beautiful. The album’s title track, Show Me The Blueprints., is the penultimate song. Despite beginning quietly, you can tell that the song is about to burst to life. The first verse is a hoarse snarl from Jesse which feels as frantic as the lyrics suggest. When Whitney sings the second verse, after a short musical interlude, its pleasantly contrasting but no less energetic and is a pattern that continues throughout the duration of the track. The song is about what goes on in the mind of someone suffering from anxiety and depression and so the erratic nature of the song feels like the perfect representation of this.

What better way to finish an album that’s been as excellent as this one than with an optimistic farewell. Goodbye Lulu Pt.2, a nod to Goodbye Lulu from 2013’s Rogue Taxidermy, feels very much an album closer. First with the lines ‘Well it's been fun for a spell, And I wish y'all well, I’d hate to overstay my welcome, So, it's time I go, And even though now I must split, Please never forget, You were the ones that made this planet, Feel like home.’ before progressing to a chorus that is as wholesomely feel-good as it is infectiously catchy. Maybe it’s the mention of ‘We'll get hammered, To the gimme gimmes auld lang syne.’ but it just feels like the kind of song you’d be singing merrily in a bar, with your arm around the person next to you – whether they’re a new friend or old. It just makes you feel like everything is going to be okay – and, right now especially, I think we all need that… But wait, it doesn’t end there. I’ll try not to give too much away if you haven’t listened to Show Me The Blueprints. yet but there’s a bonus ‘hidden track’ at the end of Goodbye Lulu Pt.2 that is well worth a listen.

Perhaps some long-time Days N Daze fans would suggest that Show Me The Blueprints. is not as raw sounding as some of their previous material. Whether that’s due to their new Fat Wreck association or not I don’t know, but what I do know is that they have produced an album with enough heart and soul to rival anything they’ve put out in the past.

Days N Daze were due to be in Europe at the end of May, including playing the Punk In Drublic stage at Slam Dunk Festival, but for obvious reasons all dates have been postponed. Alas, I cannot recommend that you go and see them live anytime soon but I can recommend that you do them, and yourself, a favour and give Show Me The Blueprints. a listen. I certainly can’t get enough myself.

Stream and download Show Me The Blueprints. on Bandcamp and like Days N Daze on Facebook.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

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