The first thing that made What To Do When You're Dead such a great album is the concept of the album. The album revolves around a character who just died in what was probably a lethal car crash and is missing out on everything from Earth: he is missing the love of his life ("I didn't care that you left or abandoned me/what hurts most is I would still die for you,) he is realizing that even earth is better than the afterlife ("it rains in heaven all day long") he is so far in the ground that he cannot even hold his head up, and he would die in the afterlife just to hear what his friends are talking about in real life. Some concept albums are about love, some concept albums are about dealing with death, some concept albums are social commentary on society, and other concept albums are just autobiographical. But, the "reverse Truman Show" concept of the album where the main character is just dead and watching the game of life pass by is so original that it is none of these cliche concepts. It is all of them: the desperate chorus of "Car Underwater" is a passionate cry for a lost love and lost life, "The Truth About Heaven" sounds like some weird social commentary on the afterlife and is one of the best songs on the album, "Basement Ghost Singing" is about the main character having to deal with his depression after his death, and "The End of A Fraud" is a great conclusion to the album.
It is amazing that in a genre known for its simplicity, immediacy, and halfheartedness, What To Do When You're Dead was a gold star of musicianship, conceptual themes, staying power, catchiness and creativity. It was a concept album that felt more like a novel, it was a pop-punk album that felt more like a long lasting genre defining experience, and it was a middle finger to a genre that used to be defined on three chords and makeup. The title of the album might have made it sound like an instruction manual on how to handle the awkward and dark after life, but the album in general was an eleven song instruction manual on how to make the ultimate pop punk album.
It is important to mention this because Armor For Sleep are getting back together for one last gig this weekend. They are playing tomorrow night at Asbury Park in New Jersey. Go experience the greatness of this album and this band while you still can.
You can download the band's recently released final song here.