Reviewed by Caralyn Green

I remember riding the emo wave, thinking, "Man, this has nowhere to go but up."

How naïve I was those many moons ago. Emo used to be cool, or at least not so very lame.

My, how times have changed.

Exhibit A: Seventeen Magazine's notorious "Am I Emo?" fashion spread, which pawned off black hair dye and pairs of Converse to clueless prepubescents. Exhibit B: "That's so emo" is the gibe of choice among the hippest of garage rock revivalists. Exhibit C: Saves the Day's new album, In Reverie .

Saves the Day obviously never tore up elitist emo circles with its predictable rhythms and clichéd lyrics that beg listeners to ask, "Want a tissue?" Kids, however, loved these cardigan-clad dudes from Jersey, evidenced by their reign of MTV2, their slot opening for the kings of emo, Weezer, last year's packed-to-capacity appearance at Crowbar, 420 E. College Ave., and their homebase of Vagrant Records, the ubiquitous label that provides shelter to fellow whiners such as Dashboard Confessional, Alkaline Trio and Hey Mercedes.

But something happened since 2001's Stay What You Are . Saves the Day didn't stay what they are. The band changed, but for the worse.

I have no problem with self-aware whininess, those Rainer Marias, those Bright Eyes, even those Dashboard Confessionals of the world. Saves the Day, however, has become a little too punk-pop, a little too bland to pull off that "I'm so sad" vibe.

In Reverie abandons the slightly gritty edge of earlier releases in favor of insanely polished, methodically upbeat production that would poise the band for continued, even amplified, success, if only the music sounded sincere. It doesn't. It sounds desperate for slot on TRL.

Tracks like the not distinctive, monotonous "Driving in the Dark" and the tired, forgettable "In Reverie" overshadow the few songs that successfully embrace the whine and turn it into something thrashing, something palpable. Throbbing finale "Tomorrow Too Late" and graphically dismal "Monkey" untangle themselves from the drone to shine as adequate examples of rollicking emo tunes, but I remain baffled by album opener "Anywhere With You," which erupts with a whiplash hook, then hastily disintegrates into just another power-pop fiasco.

I don't sense any sweat or ache going into this record. What I sense is tired chord progressions and recycled love metaphors. Gone is the distortion, the heavy backbeat; even the raw vocals are missing. Singer Chris Conley sounds more like an introspective Ben Kweller on In Reverie than the wailing, reedy-voiced powerhouse of yesteryear.

Not only is In Reverie edgeless pop, a cruel insult in its own right, but it's also creating a bad name for the emo out there that doesn't completely suck.

It's a harsh world, Saves the Day: stop whining, stop crying, stop circulating tedious, soulless pseudo-rock. Aw, you're crying.

Want a tissue?