Jun 28, 2000 at 12:00 am

Can I say "emo" without being flogged publicly? I’ll take my chances.

From the band that has come to epitomize emo(tional) rock comes what is perhaps its most ornate and inspired album yet. For those who insist on using how long they’ve listened to certain bands as leverage to complain about how much those groups have changed for the worse, Sunny Day’s new album might be a welcome topic for disgruntled ranting. If you’ve blabbed about how Sunny Day used to rock, but got soft with its previous release, How it Feels to Be Something On (unveiling a more melodic side), do yourself and the rest of us a favor: Don’t buy this album.

However, if cynical punk rockers don’t faze you, if you’re not afraid to cry at sad movies and if you’re willing to let artists grow in new directions, don’t be shy ... there are others like you.

The Rising Tide breaks convention with a studio polish that at first tastes a bit salty to the Sunny Day fan. The production, however, remains extremely tasteful and peripheral; after a few listens, it becomes not only welcome but indispensable. This album is dynamic, dramatic and overtly humane. Songs such as "One" and the title cut almost make me want to use the word triumphant ... almost. "Killed by an Angel," "Disappear," "Snibe" and "Television" are more aggressive, following their angsty lyrical narratives appropriately. On the lighter side, "Rain Song," "The Ocean," "Fool in the Photograph" and "Faces in Disguise" are gentler than anything Sunny Day has ever dared attempt.

Structuring the album around singer Jeremy Enigk’s unique, haunting voice, Sunny Day has meticulously tailored its rock to showcase some fantastic new lyrics and melodies.

Robert Gorell writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].