Album Review: Days of the New

Most people have never heard of the band Days of the New, but they were quite the sensation for a short time in the late 90s. Their first self-titled album went platinum on its release in 1997, selling some 1.5 million copies and dominating American rock charts with singles “Touch, Peel And Stand,” “Shelf in the Room” and “The Down Town.” The band promoted their album on tour with Metallica, and achieved such praise that to this day, frontman and guitarist Travis Meeks has a standing offer to perform with the Boston Pops Orchestra. 

But the band was rife with internal problems related to creative and personal differences from the get-go, culminating in Meeks firing all members and replacing them with other musicians for the group’s next two self-titled releases. Despite the initial popularity from their first album, the follow-ons could not compete commercially with the original. Less than twenty-five years after their debut, Days of the New is practically unknown, obscure to all but a small fanbase of alt-rock devotees.  

Travis Meeks started the group, originally a Pantera sound-alike called Dead Reckoning, in Indiana in 1994 with bassist Jesse Vest and drummer Matt Taul. Within just two years, Meeks had gained enough musical experience and written enough material for a full album, and the group added guitarist Todd Whitener to complete the official lineup. The band changed their name to Days of the New and adapted their style into one favoring acoustic instruments instead of the standard electric guitars that dominated the 90s rock sound. In summer 1997 at just 18 years old, Meeks and his group released Days of the New.  

Listening to Days of the New in 2021, it’s immediately clear why the album was so well received upon its release. The album is a product of its time, drawing inspiration from contemporaries in alt-rock, metal and grunge, resulting in a fusion that feels right at home in the late 90s. For instance, the main riff from the flagship single, “Touch, Peel And Stand” bears strong resemblance to Soundgarden’s “Spoonman,” released only three years prior. Another track, “Now,” flaunts clear influences as well, resulting in some kind of hybrid between Alice in Chains and Led Zeppelin. All things considered, this album holds up fairly well after almost twenty-five years. An advantage to Days of the New’s acoustic sound is that many instruments and timbres go out of style or feel dated after only a few years, but acoustic guitar has longevity, appearing on albums in a variety of genres in any decade. 

The acoustic sound is certainly a strong point on this album, but it proves a double-edged sword. One drawback to the acoustic-only approach is that by the end of the album’s 70-minute duration, the tracks start to sound homogenous and blur together. While a pure acoustic rock band might stand out from the pack at first, the lack of sonic diversity creates a wallpapery effect where nothing can cut through the musical textures enough to grab attention. Acoustic guitars simply lack the punch of electric guitars that make heavy riffs pop, so in spite of unique and multifaceted songwriting, the album at times feels flat and bloated. 

In spite of the band’s rapid success, the original Days of the New lineup was plagued by intense infighting, largely centered around frontman Travis Meeks. Since firing the rest of the band, Meeks has continued to prove incredibly difficult to work with for other hired musicians, often in part due to creative or individual differences. Unfortunately, despite contributing to band breakups, Meeks’ artistic vision has proved insufficient to singlehandedly keep Days of the New relevant even after subsequent albums. But Days of the New may one day have a chance at a comeback. Meeks has suggested on multiple occasion that a fourth Days of the New album is in the works, so if that’s the case, perhaps Meeks will concoct something with even more staying power and return to the spotlight once again.