AU ABROAD

Classic Album Review: Story of the Year - Page Avenue (2003 LP)

Album Cover - page avenue

I can officially say that track one, side one from Story of the Year’s debut LP Page Avenue has made me win more races than any other musical piece ever. That goes for all the metal I used to listen to among other things when playing all those racing games on my old Playstation. Yes, like most people, I was introduced to Story of the Year through that revolutionary computer game Need for Speed: Underground. Speeding around corners to the sounds of the screaming vocals and pumping drums of the first track was a staple of my childhood, and as I listen to the album nearly eleven years on, I realised something: I still know every word.

In fact, thinking back on it now it influenced my early musical career a lot more than I’d care to admit today. With tracks like “Until the Day I Die”, “Sidewalks” and “In the Shadows” making a daily round on my iPod in about the tenth grade, this album really encapsulated my ‘growing up phase’ and pioneered a lot of sounds that came at me all at once. At least it did for me. So, here is my track-by-track of an album which, in a way, defined my musical taste and I’m sure popularised an entire genre – and I apologise in advance for the trip down my own memory lane.

Track number one, “And The Hero Will Drown”, is arguably the heaviest track on the entire album. It’s also the one which featured on the afore mentioned racing game – and I can still picture my bright orange civic screaming through the fictional town as this song screamed out my speakers and, as I said before, helped me win many a race against my opponents – human or AI, the former of which would be singing the lyrics with me (back in my day we had split screen gaming kids – look that up). It’s a little cheesy by today’s standards, sure, but it’s appeal hasn’t tarnished over these years – at least not for me.

Second up is the song which I can still remember my friend calling “weird” because it had such a similar name to the other song on their album. Yes, “Until the Day I Die” is still to this day, one of the catchiest songs in my entire iTunes library. It’s punk influences are evident but the darker lyrics are one of the reasons I personally believe these guys were almost single handedly responsible for what was to come later in the popularity of Bullet for my Valentine, Trivium and Avenged Sevenfold. It’s definitely American in the sound, the choice of ending and chords, but it’s still a song I love to pieces.

Now sure, track three starts with probably the most cheesy, cringe worthy lyrics ever in the stars crying black tears, but “Anthem of Our Dying Day” turns into a bitter-sweet love song, I assume about a couple breaking up before the first chorus hits. Again the band showed off it’s young ability to create a catchy and lovable lyrical melody which burned into the brains of teens across the globe. It’s simple, but it’s still memorable and also has one of the coolest riffs I’ve heard from punk-ish music ever.

“In the Shadows” is the following track that actually (sort of) continues from the last track. All these years later I still wonder what things the antagonist of the song should hear. But I will shamelessly admit the intro made it’s way into a few of my own songs back in the day – that offbeat ‘ba-ba-ba-dagadaga’ was probably one of the reasons I loved this album so much – it’s kinda prog-ish. And of course the chorus is one of those crowd moments at concerts where the band stops playing and lets the crowd sing. And it works. It’s brilliant – hell I even sing it listening to it on my iPod – to the dismay of some of the commuters on the train mind you.

“Dive Right In” was the first song I ever remember learning in entirety on guitar of my own volition. It’s also I think one of those songs which you identify with as a 13/14 year old guy going through all that teenage stuff. It was about feeling like you were drowning on purpose – because you were happy there. Kinda dark, but somewhat hopeful for someone who was having that identity crisis that comes with being a young teenager and going through all that hormonal stuff. Probably doubly so for myself as I did have a bit of a rough time at school. Songs like this got me through. And I’m grateful for it. I suppose it will always hold a special place in my heart because I could put my ear buds in and forget the kids at school.

In fact, the next couple of songs “Swallow the Knife” and “Burning Years” are kind of in the same vein. The former is a bit more ballady, whereas the latter is more akin to a rock song. There is a lot of talk of locking doors, broken wings, locking doors and problems lying within. I mean it’s essentially a teenage boy’s diary without him having to keep a diary.

Now the next song, “Page Avenue” was one of those songs. One of those songs that it would come on the iPod and you’d crank it up. Probably forgetting to turn it down after and resulting in permanent hearing damage, but nonetheless. It’s a song about time passing by and you going out on your own. It was also as catchy as hell and I would often get into trouble singing it at school under my breath in math class or something.

“Sidewalks” was another ballad from the album. It was also one of the first punk songs I knew to feature both bongos and strings. It was also really well constructed and produced – which is something akin to the entire album. But the song itself stirs up memories of driving for the first time on my P’s. Running away from the streets I knew, driving further away from home just for the sake of driving. I dunno about anyone else reading this who’s around my age, but that’s what I remember of it.

“Divide and Conquer” is a song which I could assume would today apply to the establishment and fighting against the man. You know, anti establishment, anti-consumerism stuff. But I have a feeling it was about not being honest to your parents and wanting to really go to that dance but mum and dad said no. I dunno, this was one of those songs I usually skipped although the few times I listened to it I picked up the words. It honestly wasn’t one of the favourites off the album but it seemed to fit with the overall theme of the LP so it stayed on there.

Now the next track, “Razorblades”, on the other hand is undoubtedly, without a question, my favourite. That opening riff and kick of the guitars (what you kids today will call a ‘drop’) was awesome. And today, I find myself relating to it as I stopped caring about an old friend of mine, because I too wasted so much time on a friend. And that middle section which invokes the ‘we should have seen this coming!’ is one of those car moments where you nearly have an accident because you’re too busy looking for the repeat option. It even ends with my favourite pop-rock ending of all time – those notes.

Now, from what I remember, my version of this album never had the twelfth track “Falling Down” on it. And possibly with good reason. When the previous track ends with ‘this is the end’ then it seems apt to end it there. But this track was a return to the heavier punk influences and promptly brings the album full circle. It’s a great live track but it loses out a little in sounding a touch flat – as such was the mixing and style of the time. I still think it doesn’t belong on the album and as such I’ll leave it as eleven tracks.

There are few albums that invoke some kind of teenage musical love – Linkin Park’s Meteora, Dream Theater’s Train of Thought, Limp Bizkit’s Starfish, and of course the mighty Page Avenue. So it comes as a bit of a shock to me when I hear myself say that it is over a decade old – partly because it makes me feel rather old, but mostly because it’s one of those albums I know every word to. But as I listened to this again tonight – for the first time in over at least five years, it shocked me how much I still knew the lyrics. I couldn’t quite figure out why, and then it hit me.

You see this album, and albums like it, defined an entire section of my life. They were the sound track to an entire generation’s puberty. As well as influencing countless kids to pick up and play the guitar, get involved in music, forge friendships, and realise that there were many people out there who understood them. Gave them someone to look up to. Thanks to this album and a few other select ones, it made me realise that things would be OK while I went through that shitty period of growing up. I suppose at the end of the day that’s what this album was. It was one of those little gems that came along exactly at the right moment, and helped me through so much.

I owe this album a lot. I owe therefore the boys from the band a lot for coming up with this brilliant time-capsule of my feelings for those few years of turmoil. I’m happy to say that a decade on, and the album is as good as it ever was. A little over produced in the compression department, but otherwise solid, angsty teen emotion that we all used as some kind of release – at least when I was growing up.

And I will never, ever, forget it.

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Story of the Year will be playing Page Avenue in full at shows aronud Australia later this month, alongside some other fan favourites. The tour dates are below, and you can also check out Dave's interview with Dan Marsala from the band HERE.

Thursday, 26th June 2014 - The Hi-Fi Brisbane (18+)
Friday, 27th June 2014 - The Metro, Sydney (Lic All Ages)
Sunday, 29th June 2014 - 170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)