Anberlin’s ‘Never Take Friendship Personal’ Turns 10 Years Old

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Almost ten years ago, I was about to be a senior in high school and I was sitting in my friend Steve Rivers’ bedroom with no air conditioning, in the middle of summer, and it was a scorcher. We were staying out of the hot midday sun, playing Grand Theft Auto as Steve was quizzing me about bands I’d been listening to recently. He asked me if I had heard of Anberlin…

“Amber-who?”

ANBERLIN. A band that little did I know would change my opinion on music forever.

On February 1, 2005, Anberlin released their sophomore album titled Never Take Friendship Personal. I was already deep in the scene listening to the likes of Something Corporate, Taking Back Sunday, Punchline, Say Anything, The Early November, and more, but somehow had skipped right over Anberlin. What a mistake I quickly realized that was.

Better late than never, Steve put this record on and it was love at first listen. It was heavy and solid, vocalist Stephen Christian had an intense and unique sound, and it was easy to see why this band was so influential in the music scene in the early 2000s. You couldn’t help but just close your eyes, take in every note, and bob your head. Song after song, it just got better. The record had a strong opening and an even stronger finish.

Every song on the album was a hard hitter with flawless production by Aaron Sprinkle, and it was an album I could sit and play in its entirety, over and over, without feeling the need to skip any songs. They were all that damn good. And still are to this day.

As a senior in high school–arguably the most important year of your high school career when everyone is worrying about SATs, ACTs, grades, and college–I was doing all those things, but also equally as focused on music and making memories and beginning my love affair with photography. A band like Anberlin shaped who I am today. The lyrics were just as relevant ten years ago as they are currently.

Never Take Friendship Personal” is a perfect opening and title track. This track set the tone for the remainder of the album. It is heavy, with powerful guitar riffs and commanding drum beats and it’s effortless to sing along to. In terms of the lyrics, it is quite a simplistic message but also quintessential advice that applies no matter the age or the era. Coincidentally, I had a phone conversation with my uncle in Phoenix two days ago discussing the exact subject this song is about. We spoke about friendships in life that come and go and about being strong enough to not take it personally; you have to know who you are and accept that it is enough. Back in high school when friendships were constantly changing due to the slightest alteration in hormones or daily drama, as well as being twenty-six today and having changed jobs and cities, I realize now that friends come and go just as often as they did in high school but the difference now is that it is due mostly to geography rather than high school antics. Regardless, this track is a great reminder of the importance of friendships and not getting tied up in the drama and anyone’s perception of you.

The second track on the album, “Paperthin Hymn,” is also a heavy tune. This track runs through my head over and over, even way after it’s stopped playing. It always sounded incredibly bad-ass blasting in my car when I was 17 years old, and is still just as powerful in my iPod headphones during a crazy mid-week subway commute. The overall importance of this song lies in the individual’s interpreted meaning of it.

“Who’s gonna call on Sunday morning? Who’s gonna drive you home? I just want one more chance to put my arms in fragile hands. I thought you said forever over and over…”

A decade ago I loved the song for the sound, but ten years later it’s the lyrics that have me hanging on every word. The video features a girl in the hospital whose friend has come to visit, and shows the depth of their bond and love as he pushes her around in her wheelchair and they are laughing together. But then the scene changes back to the hospital room and the girl wakes up but realizes her friend is in the bed next to her and passes away right before her eyes. This song hits too close to home right now as one of my closest friends spent the majority of the past few years in the hospital and passed away in November, mere hours before I could get there, so I’m feeling this song and video on an incredibly deep level. Lyrically, it challenges you to realize the importance of your closest friendships and the bonds that keep them going. The song reminds you that the strongest friendships aren’t based on convenience, but rather they are with the people that would be there for you whenever, whatever, no questions asked. Those are the friends you wish were around forever, but unfortunately life doesn’t work like that and you have to cherish the time you were able to spend with them and their continued impact on your life even after they are gone. “Paperthin Hymn” accomplished a lot in one song, a very heavy song that gets stuck in your brain with ease but also has incredibly profound meaning.

There is so much I could say about every song on this album but then we’d have a novel instead of an essay. Every song is astonishing and written so faultlessly, but the third song I’ll touch on that was one of the most notable to me is “Feel Good Drag.” This is another song with lyrics that touch on real-life situations. It is song that has consistent, stellar drums beats, heavy bass, and very strong vocals and leaves you wanting more…so when it is all over, after twelve tracks, you go back to the beginning and rock out all over again.

This album is catchy, upbeat, energetic, aggressive, and melodic, with strong choruses and breakdowns just heavy enough for your head to bob just a little harder. This album was essential to my teen years just as it’s been in my early to mid-twenties and I hope the current generation would take a moment to check out a band that truly did change the scene for the better.

Here’s to never taking friendship personal and ten years of rocking out to this album. Sadly, Anberlin announced their breakup last year, but with twelve years as a band and six albums under their belt, at least albums like this will forever remind us just how incredible and influential Anberlin was.

Editorial written by Kellie Gannon
‘Never Take Friendship Personal’ turned 10 on February 1.

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