Never Take Friendship Personal Anberlin, 2005 (Tooth & Nail Records)
In light of their recent Final Tour, reviewing Anberlin’s Never Take Friendship Personal seems sadly appropriate. This album was Anberlin’s first big success, with their single “The Feel Good Drag” pressed here first, then again on New Surrender.
Stylistically, this album is a break from their first record Blueprints for the Black Market (2003). Friendship gave way to melodic hooks with a distinct and catchy lyrical style, as well as partially thrusting the band from the “emo” scene into the more hardcore. This album is upbeat, with wordplay (Stationary Stationery) and tongue-in-cheek references (dance, dance Christina Paffgen).
The title track, rumored to have been inspired by the band’s split with guitarist Joey Bruce, catches the listener with a heavy – ironically – guitar intro. Stephen Christian comes in, screaming, “There’s a hatchet got a knife,” pulling the listener into the song. It continues, becoming an angry anthem in the chorus “Innocence gone, never take friendship personal / if you can’t hold yourself together / why should I hold you now?”
Continuing the record with sweeping melodies, the middle of the album punches the listener with the same rough guitar as the title track, keeping rhythmically with the heavy drums. “The Feel Good Drag” is an unexpected song from the group. According to Christian, the song was about staying in a relationship that he was no longer invested in, but immediate impressions of the song do not read that way. Immediately, it brings to mind a sexually explicit relationship worthy of day-time television. This song is heavily rhythmic, driven by the stand-alone bass beats that lead into the chorus “was this over before / before it ever began”
The final song on the album, “dance, dance Christina Paffgen” is a reference to Nico, whose given name was Christina Paffgen. It includes other classic Hollywood names as well: James Dean, Bettie Paige, Betty Davis and Marilyn Monroe. This track was, according to Christian, meant to sound similar to The Smiths, a band that is a big influence on Anberlin. Vocally and lyrically, it is similar to the English pop band, but instrumentally it breaks from their radio-safe sound. The build in the song with layered, repeated guitar riffs is purely Anberlin.
Overall, Never Take Friendship Personal was a great sophomore album for a once-great band. Christian took his love of Brit Pop and pumped it into a very successful album that walked the line between radio-friendly pop and fan-loyal emo-alternative bliss.
Listen to: “Paperthin Hymn”