What a funny early 2020 release date this is, eh?! Facetiousness aside, it’s a wonder that You’re Welcome has even come out at all, given the utter trainwreck that A Day To Remember have had to withstand in its rollout. Lead single Degenerates came out in mid-2019, and immediately the signs of being swallowed up by their new label Fueled By Ramen felt abundant, in what was a pretty watered-down and uninspired pop-punk track devoid of the band’s usual post-hardcore edge or firepower. Granted, some felt those hackles raise even earlier upon the band’s collaboration with Marshmello Rescue Me, but the torrent of poor communication and mixed messages really felt worrying, even for a band like A Day To Remember who’ve never had the best of luck with their labels in the past. Add to that the reason for further delays reportedly being to get the artwork finished (which, bear in mind, was still pencilled in for over a year ago), and the presumptuousness of You’re Welcome’s title felt less earned than ever. This is an album that, right up to the eleventh hour, has been passed around haphazardly with barely an end goal in sight, all while continuing to drop pre-release tracks that have just felt so shoddy and unexciting, especially for the standard that A Day To Remember are capable of. Again, the fact that You’re Welcome is being released in a finished state is a borderline miracle, but to convince anyone that it’s going to be of quality is another, far more mountainous order entirely.
And yes, this is a bad album; anyone who’s been following the rigmarole for the past year-and-a-half could tell that with no hesitation. But what’s interesting about You’re Welcome is how at odds it feels with A Day To Remember’s usual creative philosophy. There’s only so much blame that can be put on a typical Fueled By Ramen production rubric, especially when the band themselves appear to be steering this into mainstream rock waters with as little tact possible. It’s the first time where A Day To Remember have felt legitimately uncreative, dishing out what they might believe to be a big swing for the fences in changing direction, when in reality they’re pulling their punches considerably more than ever before. It makes for the worst kind of album to talk about, where it’s not terrible enough to outright hate or achieve any sort of visceral catharsis from, instead just supplanting that with blandness almost all the way down.
It’s not even that this is a generally less heavy album – that’s the band’s prerogative, and they’re capable of pulling it off – but rather, the progress they’ve made in tightening and refining their sound in the best possible way basically feels like it’s a background element. That can be found in what scaled-back heavy numbers there are here, in how much looser and less impactful they can feel; Last Chance To Dance (Bad Friend) stands the closest to their regular firepower, but the whiplash-inducing tempo drops of Brick Wall and warmed-over I Prevail impression of Resentment make these moments feel like afterthoughts overall. Again, the problem comes from the underwhelming execution rather than the diminished number, something that afflicts You’re Welcome as a whole when, from basically every angle, this is a major step down. Degenerates is by no means the worst song here, but it’s representative of the direction that A Day To Remember’s vision is pointing towards now, where they’ve retooled and tailored their existing composite parts to fit more neatly into the mainstream rock morass. It’s why that song is a liberal pull from blink-182; and why Bloodsucker clunks together a gallumphing drop and millennial whoops in such an obvious way; and why, at numerous points, any semblance of pop-punk or post-hardcore has been swapped out for something more akin to latter day Papa Roach. The flavour that used define A Day To Remember’s output is so lacking on You’re Welcome, in what’s easily the most nondescript album they’ve put their name to to date. It says a lot that when they do feel more reminiscent of their previous work like on Mindreader or Last Chance To Dance (Bad Friend), it sticks so more readily, but when the pivot towards a bigger, wide-appealing sound has been made this blatant, those moments are hard to come by. Credit does need to go to it for being one of the few albums on Fueled By Ramen that isn’t terrified to be a bit meatier or acknowledge that it has a bass, but largely, that production will yield the same issues, just recontextualised for A Day To Remember. The synthetic elements are still intrusive, and the vocals from Jeremy McKinnon will still be crowbarred into shape by vocal effects on Bloodsucker and Only Money, now only soundtracked by a middle-of-the-road sound that’s slightly heavier than the norm. It was predictable after the reams of singles painted that picture, but seeing it applied in such earnest to the full canvas is still disappointing regardless.
It’d be wrong to outright call it lazy, but for A Day To Remember, it’s absolutely uninspired and easily the least interesting they’ve ever been. Quite what spurred on this desire to rebuild themselves in this way is unknown, but it’s predictably leached them of personality, to where the interchangeability and generic quality of these songs is emphasised further. Even for a band who’ve never been incisive or thought-provoking in their writing, they can definitely do better than this, where they’ll latch onto notions of escaping from dead-end jobs on F.Y.M and Re-Entry, and going on a frat-boy bender on Viva La Mexico. It’s unquestionably below A Day To Remember’s pay grade, even to the point where they feel dumbed-down or overly simplified to fully adhere to the format they resigned themselves to. This is a band who’ve been perfectly capable of making affecting, powerful acoustic songs in the past, and yet on the campfire sway and “we’re stronger together” mentality of Everything We Need, it could be a modern Dashboard Confessional leftover. It feels very cynically motivated when they’re trying to pull this off; at least on songs like Bloodsucker that lean more on straightforward anger, it’s on-brand to where A Day To Remember have been before. Comparatively, there’ll be a song like Only Money, where the sentiment of important moments with family and friends being more important than making money is admittedly sweet, but can feel extremely wrong-headed in the middle of their most commercially-minded and radio-focused album to date.
Really, the album that You’re Welcome brings to mind most is All Time Low’s Last Young Renegade – both were debuts on Fueled By Ramen late into their respective games, where the personality and drive of each band was sucked out on the basis of profitability to reveal a throwaway shell of their former selves. It’s also not hard to imagine the same fallout either, where All Time Low’s efforts tanked and their next album was as blatant of a course correction as they come. That ultimately feels on the cards for A Day To Remember too; the fan reaction to what they’ve been doing here is already horrible, and making a swift rebound to the style of Common Courtesy or even Bad Vibrations is probably the most effective way to save face going forward. Because, let’s be real – You’re Welcome is A Day To Remember’s worst album by a country mile, fixed into place by a system that prizes the homogenous rock music that this band have never been a part of. And yet, they’ve still bought into it here, with their most faceless and underwhelming collection of songs to date that might occasionally strike a moment of clarity, but does so on a very, very rare occasion. Even if it’s not quite the disaster that the buildup might’ve implied, it’s not that far off relatively, as one of modern rock’s shining lights has fallen into the sort of tailspin they’ll desperately need to pull out of before it’s too late.
For fans of: blink-182, Papa Roach, Linkin Park
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘You’re Welcome’ by A Day To Remember is out now on Fueled By Ramen.