Nine years after Taking Back Sunday’s debut album Tell All Your Friends was released – and several embittered anthems of betrayal and grudges later – the original lineup is back together for their second studio album as a group.
It’s TBS’ fifth studio album overall, and still has several of the unmistakable audio cues that have stuck with the band through the years and lineup changes – Adam Lazzara’s gritty frontman presence, Mark O’Connell’s thunderous big-drum sound, and the trademark chorus of unrelenting backup vocals are all there in full force. However, those expecting a complete return to the rambunctious emo-tastic energy of TAYF might be somewhat disappointed. Taking Back Sunday is not an album that pleases easily on the first listen; encompassing the hyped reunion of the “original” crew, you can almost hear the members trying to rediscover their chemistry as the album progresses. The change in style is evident from the first track, “El Paso,” a repetitive song that alternates between cryptic, brooding verses and punch-you-in-the-eardrums choruses. The song ends with the lyric “Just do your best to forget,” a caveat to listeners that they would do well to forget any preconceived expectations and listen to the rest of the album with fresh ears.
There are tracks that retain the classic TBS vibe (“Best Places to Be a Mom” and “This Is All Now”), and in fact, these may be the strongest ones on the album. But the band doesn’t hesitate to explore new sounds either, as evidenced by the lead single “Faith (When I Let You Down),” a polished track that borders on self-importance à la 30 Seconds to Mars’ “Kings and Queens.” A couple tracks feel forced and out of place, most notoriously “Money (Let It Go),” and by tracks 9 and 10, you almost get the feeling the band is straining just to finish the album.
After multiple listens, it’s hard to determine a tone for the album as a whole, which starts off strong but loses direction as it wears on. Despite this disjointedness, it does become a more enjoyable experience upon second and third listens, and songs that lack the surface hooks abundant in TAYF and Louder Now begin to stand out more and more. The lyrics are good throughout and show an occasional flash of brilliance, and the production is slicker than most previous TBS material (whether the band benefits from this or its earlier raw sound more is unclear). Taking Back Sunday is a solid album with some very solid tracks, but the band’s maturation would be smoother if its members could all stay together for more than a few years at a time. Perhaps this album will serve as a second launching point for the “re-original” lineup, and if this is ultimately the case, then Taking Back Sunday is a sign of very good things to come.
Will you Tell All Your Friends about Taking Back Sunday? Maybe. If you have the patience to dig into the album and discover some of the gems amidst the rubble, you just might.
(3) Best Places to Be a Mom
(4) Sad Savior
(7) This Is All Now