‘Homesick’; ten years of holdin’ it down for the underground.
High chances are if you even remotely like metalcore or pop-punk, you’re well aware of ‘Homesick‘. Strong chances are if you were even sparingly invested in the heavy music scene back in 2009, you’ve heard or come across ‘Homesick‘. And good chances are that if you’re reading this article right now, then you own a copy of ‘Homesick‘ or you’re a big fan of it. After all, A Day To Remember’s third LP nabbed the top spot for KYS’s own AOTY poll back in 2009, as well as many other AOTY rankings back in ’09 and the frequent number of “bands to watch in 2010” lists that it placed the group into. To say that A Day To Remember blew up off the back of this monster would be to disgustingly under-serve that fact, fan of it or not.
Released back in February 2009, this record altered the trajectory of A Day To Remember for the better, but also the scene they were part of too. This really was the album that made the Ocala metalcore-meets-pop-punk outfit back in the day what they are now. I mean, it’s basically been the blueprint for all of theirs records since, as well as the drawing board sound for numerous other bands over the years. ‘Homesick‘ was built off the rough but decent foundations laid by 2005’s ‘…And Their Name Was Treason‘ LP and 2007’s solid sophomore effort, ‘For Those Who Have Heart‘, which is still a pretty enjoyable ride even today. Yet this thing took everything to a new level. It was a break-through underground success for the American hook-loving mosh-crew, selling thousands of copies in it’s first week, and going on to shift hundreds of thousands of units ever since. Again, it’s the core reason why A Day To Remember have the huge career they currently have: this album allowed the following records and their many other successes to come, still remaining some of their most-loved live material too.
As this was A Day To Remember’s own water-shed moment. Not because this record broke some new ground musically for the scene or because it’s some kind of masterpiece. (Though, many people would indeed rate it a 10/10, I’m quite sure.) No, it’s because it had such a massive response from fans (both new and old) and the heavy music press, so much so that it took them around the world; to becoming festival main-stays; to still be so spoken of so highly a decade later by so many. Whether you still love ADTR, only loved ‘Homesick‘, or are more like me and started checking out after 2010’s darker banger, ‘What Separates Me From You‘, there’s still so much hefty appreciation for this entry.
‘Homesick‘ wasn’t only a big deal for the band members themselves and their career sky-rocketing forward post-release, but a massive deal for so many listeners too. It was admittedly one of the better easycore distillations at the time, and it was a huge gateway record for new fans of pop-punk and metalcore. It’s a record that took the Florida group to play shows with the likes of Set Your Goals (Christ, I miss that band), Four Year Strong when they were actually relevant, and New Found Glory (who’s very own Chad Gilbert actually produced this very LP). But it also allowed them an in to play alongside the likes of August Burns Red and Parkway Drive. And that cross-over showed in their audience breadth too. As they had the stadium-sized pop-hooks to nicely pull in the mainstream crowds and the angsty pop-punk lovers, but they also had the drop C guitar chugs and breakdowns to rope in all of the hardcore and metalcore kids too. Which is what happened: ADTR, knowingly or unintentionally, captured that cross-over market and mass appeal. As history shows, this was a winning combination! ADTR sure weren’t the first band to do this kind of sound, but they did it in the most accessible, digestible and approachable way possible. And that paid-off immensely well for them. I’m not even being cynical when I say that, either, that’s just a pure fact.
I remember when this album landed back in 2009, ‘Homesick‘ was a name on everyone’s lips when it came to my alternative/heavy music loving high school chums. My friends who loved artists like Paramore, Simple Plan, Fall Out Boy, Mayday Parade and All Time Low could easily get into it with the major-key, overly polished choruses. Whereas my other mates who were loving far heavier groups like Suicide Silence, The Devil Wears Prada, and August Burns Red could also fuck with it too, what with all of the china-loving breakdowns, heavy screams, and dropped guitar riffage. And for those who loved both styles, it was a wet musical dream come to life! ‘Homesick‘ is the best of both worlds for these sounds and scenes; bridging the gap perhaps more than any other record at the time did.
These songs push and pull between the realms of rock, pop-punk, post-hardcore, and metalcore; a melting-pot moment for those respective genres, giving the band the largest demographic pull. A more recent example of such a draw would be that absolutely dreadful band, I Prevail. Which is funny, as bands like that exist in some way due to the impact that this album had. In part, that’s the legacy it leaves. We can probably blame it for a great many other slap-dash core bands and records existing too. Yet all of these bands have some key things in common, one main factor being feelings and lyrics of youth. Cause ‘Homesick‘ is a youthful record; it’s all about self-doubt and self-belief, seeing the world and touring, family and friends, and ignoring naysayers and carving out your own path.
In another ten or 15 years, this is probably going to be considered a classic record for that particular scene and era. Similar in the same way that people love and respect Poison The Well’s ‘The Opposite Of December‘ or The Dillinger Escape Plan’s ‘Calculating Infinity‘ (both albums that turn 20 this year) for what they did their respective worlds of heavier music, ‘Homesick‘ is a huge hit for those underground and mainstream Myspace scenes alike.
On one side of the coin, let’s talk about the heavier, darker musical shades that ADTR cast out across the run-time of ‘Homesick‘. First up, we’ve got that huge pre-breakdown pit-call on ‘Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End‘ where frontman Jeremy McKinnon loudly declares “Disrespect your surroundings“, a vocal call-out which still erupts limb-flailing mosh-pits ten years on. Of course, there’s the massive “LET’S GO!” vocal roar that kicks off ‘The Downfall Of Us All‘ following that unmistakable “Da-da-da-de-da-da-da” a capella intro; an introduction that sets the record’s theme of personal determination while out on the road and it’s pop-meets-heavy tone super well. And then there’s the violent battle-cry of “this is a battleground” for the last breakdown of ‘My Life For Hire‘.
Let’s also not forget about Mike Hranica from Devil Wears Prada lending his intensive, fry vocals to the Night At The Museum-referenced third track, ‘“I’m Made Of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of?”‘. Nor should we forget about Vincent Bennett from mosh-lords The Acacia Strain lending those tough lower growls to given ADTR a heavier weight on ‘Welcome To The Family‘. In another life, with the most constant screams of the record, this could’ve easily been a B-side Acacia track. Even with that infectious, driving “I don’t believe that everything” chorus sandwiched between those more brutal moments.
Yet for every breakdown and for every hardcore section that it flexed, ADTR injected the complete opposite with huge vocal hooks and giant melodies. Which was the real charm of ‘Homesick‘; that musical duality. For a vast majority of ‘Homesick‘, the pop-punk side of things could not exist without the other heavier side. Ying and yang, all that kind of shit.
‘Another Song About The Weekend‘, basically a New Found Glory track in all but name, is the most centred pop-punk number of the whole lot. Even in the short-lived and “play-slow, tune-low” parts of ‘You Already Know What You Are‘, the band still slide in a decent little pop-punk chorus to remind you all what the go is. ‘Have Faith In Me‘, what with it’s softly sung vocals, melodic guitars, resounding chorus of trust and love, and marching snare roll patterns, was another catchy hit for the band too. It also has one of the tightest moments of contrast between the two extremes of the band’s sound, with the band inserting some heavier screams during the bridge section, but not in an out-of-place way.
The closing acoustic-ballad ‘If It Means A Lot To You‘, lyrically co-written with Jason Lancaster (ex-Mayday Parade) and featuring Sierra Kay Kusterback from VersaEmerge, has absolutely become a career-fave. Whereas the bouncy ‘Downfall Of Us All‘ came out swinging hard as the opener, this lighter, dynamic closer is the record’s slow-jam; the sway-your-hands-back-and-forth set-ender. The instrumental crescendo between 2:58 and 3:13 is one of the biggest sections of music that ADTR have written, but without having to resort to screaming and breakdowns to get the point across. Sure, the “la la la” chants are a little corny, and while I’ve always felt ‘I’m Already Gone‘ is the better acoustic number, it’s hard to argue against this song’s streaming stats and the love that’s voiced for it. Both when it came out and now. Jeremy once described ‘If It Means A Lot To You‘ years ago as their biggest track, and I think that still rings true.
Personally, and even as someone who plugged this thing frequently as a young man, I don’t think ‘Homesick‘ is perfect like so many others do. Definitely not by the standards of 2019. For one, it’s quite a repetitive listen at times. Also, when returning to the record for the first time in literal years whilst writing this piece, I couldn’t remember how some songs went just from looking over the track-listing. Truth be told, hearing ‘Holdin’ It Down For The Underground‘, ‘You Already Know What You Are‘, the titular track, and ‘Welcome To The Family‘ felt like listening to them for the first time again when I put this aged bad-boy back on. I’d also argue that this record is built off the strength of about four great fucking songs, not so much the full album. ‘Downfall…‘, ‘I’m Made Of Wax…‘, ‘Mr. Highway’s…‘ and the superbly well-balanced gem of ‘NJ Legion Iced Tea‘ (my personal fave) are where the real goods are at; where the real sustenance of ‘Homesick‘ resides within. Other songs and various sections other don’t land as hard or as well as those aforementioned cuts.
Despite that, however, this is absolutely an important album for ADTR and the scene they were bred from. That much I think any of us can clearly see, regardless of our personal opinions on their third album. This LP showed that if these five young men from America’s Wang state could do it, so could other artists as well. Which is why we’ve seen so many bands want to copy this songwriting style ever since. It’s why a lot of artists have turned to Jeremy as a producer for their albums, from The Ghost Inside to Wage War and many more. This is why so many people still love this thing even now. No matter what I or any other writer share in a review, time is the final judge of all things. And ‘Homesick‘, while dated in some ways, still holds up well. You could do a lot worse, really.