Anberlin: Never Take Friendship Personal
Anberlin has an alternative beat and introspective tone to their lyrics that caught me in Blueprints for the Black Market, and compelled me to hurry to purchase Never Take Friendship Personal. Stephen Christian has an ‘everyman’ sound to his voice and their depictions of relationship in the ups and downs of life come across in their angst.
The embers of Ecclesiastes burn behind the frustration of “Never Take Friendship Personal.” Anberlin sings that “The greatest tragedy is not your death/But a life without reason.” Relationships are fleeting and friends will fail you but there is a sanity that must be maintained by each person in their life, proposes the singer. His lack of compassion quickly turns to his own sadness and loneliness in “Paperthin Hymn.” Once again, the brokenness of relationships has left him feeling down, but the sharp contrast shows Sunday mornings, with opportunities for praising God. Everything, especially relationships, seems meaningless.
“Stationary Stationery” rings of regret, for a girl who got away, but the cause seems to be the singer’s own mistakes in non-committal behavior. He wants another chance at love, but Anberlin’s message seems to be that broken relationships are out of chances. “(The Symphony of) Blasé” tones down the hard rock but the pain seems to be more emphatically proclaimed. A relationship that feels right lacks substance and the cost of their actions together turns the singer from his girlfriend, ignoring her defense. He prays “God if you can hear me out alright/Please take these feelings for her inside…You’re wasting me away.” The caustic relationship seems to be eating him alive and he knows he has to make a change.
An old lover returns in “A Day Late,” desiring that their love be rekindled but Anberlin has brushed ‘wasted’ relationships aside. Each person becomes defined by who they are with and when they are together, a portion of them gets left behind. The ‘one who got away’ theme reoccurs in “Runaway Girl,” as he challenges an interested woman with his understanding of her reasons for attraction. He quickly changes focus as he admits that he only stayed to break her heart, a defense mechanism of abandonment before being abandoned. Anberlin seems to walk a fine line as the wounded party, but they have also traversed on the side of the line where the power to inflict pain exists.
“Time and Confusion” provide the first optimistic option for love on the album. Here, the singer has found a girl, the life they live together seems bright, and he longs to stay together forever. He recognizes that “it’s not about the money we make/It’s about the passions that we ache for” and urges her to tell him what she hopes for in him. The feel-good moment is short-lived as Anberlin dives back into the subject of a two-timing relationship in “The Feel-Good Drag.” In a town where “Everyone in this town/Is seeing someone else/Everybody tired of someone/Our eyes wander for help/I’m tired of who I am.” Anberlin admits to stumbling down a road of cheating and betrayal, but ultimately their response is one of seeing the problem within themselves. Before they can fix the relationships that they are in, they have to search themselves. Having admitted this, they laud for “Audrey, Start the Revolution!” Here the tale of relationship-wrecked individuals joins as one—if they can live in true love together, then they can overcome all that is their past.
Anberlin may be too sad for some but by identifying their weaknesses and calling them into the light, the opportunity for improvement is greater. With thought-provoking lyrics, and obvious experience in relationships, the band strikes a blow for love and meaning in interpersonal communication. Given their expression of faith in interviews, the love they claim comes from Christ, the master of human relationships!