Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Taking Back Sunday - Taking Back Sunday - Review

Taking Back Sunday have been living in their own shadow since about 2004. After the departure of John Nolan, the band slowly strayed from its roots with each passing album, losing fans in a true Rivers Cuomo fashion. Now that Nolan has returned, the band is faced with a dilemma: continue along the path of a more typical alt-rock sound, or return to the humble beginnings of passionate emo-tinged pop-punk? Well, the answer is both. Sort of.

This album is a bit of a paradox. In all honesty, it’s what New Again should have been: a melding of Nolan-era TBS with their more recent efforts. Though you wouldn’t know that just by listening to the opening track. “El Paso” kicks off the album with a rousing and heavy (for the band’s standards) jam with singer Adam Lazzara channeling his inner anger. It’s a great opener, but quite misleading in retrospect.

“Best Places To Be A Mom” hits hard early on with probably the most Tell All Your Friends that this album gets. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, and manages to call back to previous albums without being a retread of older songs. The start-stop rhythm of the guitar in “Since You're Gone” is the other biggest memory of older material; it is definitely harkening back to “One-Eighty By Summer”. Otherwise, most of the songs give way to the more standard alt-rock sound of Louder Now and New Again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as every song on here is pretty solid. The closest thing this album has to a filler track is the grooving “Money (Let It Go)”. It tries to instill the same feeling as “El Paso” but with much less success.

Lyrically, Taking Back Sunday is a bit hit-or-miss. They often let the melodrama get the best of them; look no further than their most popular song “Cute Without the ‘E’”. Fortunately time has given Lazzara a better handle on his lyrics. While there are a few clunkers, the lyrics are much more reserved and are pleasant enough, usually letting Lazzara’s and Nolan’s voice carry them, rather than the other way around. A prime example of this is the chorus of “Since You're Gone”, its ‘I’m sorry, come back’ being beautiful in its simplicity.

However, the definite highlights are those that harness the spastic nature of the band. “You Got Me” is the catchiest song on the album and features a great performance by Lazzara, capturing the energy that he’s all too willing to restrain as of late. And the closer, “Call Me In the Morning” is far and away the best closer in their discography, and one of the most touching songs they’ve written in quite some time. It utilizes the best they have to offer in giant choruses, and is probably the only time Nolan is used to his full potential.

So this may not be the great return to form that everyone was hoping for. And it may not be the continuation of New Again’s sound that everyone was expecting. What we’re left with is a hybrid of the two; and this is a sound that is likely to please few. However, there’s not a bad song on the album, and some of them are among the best the band has to offer. If they can stick with a line-up for awhile, they have another classic in them somewhere.


No comments: