Taking Back Sunday

Happiness Is

Written by: TL on 26/03/2014 00:03:47

Taking Back Sunday is a band that defies logic. The band, if any, wrote the quintessential emo-rock albums in 02's "Tell All Your Friends" and 04's "Where You Want To Be", yet in a genre that's buzzed with activity both before and after, virtually no bands sound quite like the Long Island quintet. Moreover, already at the release of the latter of the two records, the band had changed half its members, yet where others might have called it quits and started counting down to their reunion, Adam Lazzara, Eddie Reyes and Mark O'Connell always pulled through for another record, with lead guitarists and bassists coming and going more than once. Despite this, things seemed dire when 09's "New Again" failed to follow up on the wider success of 06's "Louder Now", and yet, the return to the first album's line-up was supposed to be the spark of reignition on 11's "Taking Back Sunday". Still, after the hype around the self-titled dimmed, the videos of tour footage that appeared online showed a band that looked ageing, out of tune and out of breath. Adam Lazzara, once a charismatic frontman that had looked like he would be forever young, looked like he was paying interest for rock'n'roll life.

Logically then, Taking Back Sunday should finally be grinding to a halt right around now, yet here we are with their sixth album "Happiness Is", opening with a cinematic string "Preface" before launching right into new power-single "Flicker, Fade": A song which crashes in with post-rock tremolo ringing under semi-acoustic chords and a flamboyant verse delivery from Lazzara that can time-travel you back to 2005 in a heartbeat, bringing along an irresistible refrain that demands to be shouted along and a hint of a violin bridge that conjures memories of "Where You Want To Be". We are alive it says. We're getting it back together it says. And that's all it has time to say because "Stood A Chance" and "All The Way" are right on its heels to drive the point home before the listener has time to ask questions. "Hot damn! Tell me that don't feel good!" Lazzara yells in the back of a bridge of the former, which overcomes its bouncy single-ness via infectiously rhyming "A body like a welcome mat" with "A body like a punching bag".

Both singles have been available prior to the album's release however, and so what's most interesting was always how TBS would fare on the remaining tracks, which is why my fan boy's heart breaks with relief over a song like "All The Way", which oomphs with abrupt bass notes and big stadium drums that thunder across its otherwise mellow, starlit mood, while the listener is kept at bay with a wondrously understated chorus before the song finally breaks out for a liberating bit of climaxing toward the end. "Beat Up Car" rocks as well with its rollicking chorus, but it does precede a bit of a lull that comes with the ballad "It Takes More" and the hard-edged "They Don't Have Any Friends". As has been the case ever since "Louder Now", Taking Back Sunday just don't have as engaging ballads in them as the old "New American Classic" and "Little Devotional", which likely stems from the feeling that Lazzara and Nolan's lyrics are less transparently personal and dramatic and instead a degree more distanced than was the case in their youth.

The late half of the album is characterised by songs that are more 'recognizable' than necessarily 'great' though, especially when compared to the first five, although there is a late highlight in the dusty swagger of the aptly named "We Were Younger Then". Eventually the album strikes me as a medium between "Louder Now" and "Taking Back Sunday" with especially songs like "Beat Up Car" and "They Don't Have Any Friends" channeling the sharp tone the band once explored with songs like "Spin" and "Error Operator" (sadly no revisiting the Brand New-ish flash of "El Paso"), but with that same feeling that the band, while still surprisingly dependable in the department of catchy, engaging songs with their own unique style, will never define the genre with as cohesive and completely immersive listens as their first two albums. And that's okay, because those were lightning in a bottle anyway, and it would be unreasonable to expect any band to flicker like that much more than twice. So long as this is as much as Taking Back Sunday are going to fade however, it's still good enough that yours truly won't mind if a song or two find room among the classics at the band's upcoming Groezrock performance.


Download: Flicker, Fade; All The Way; Beat Up Car; We Were Younger Then
For The Fans Of: The Academy Is, Armor For Sleep, Mayday Parade (on "A Lesson In Romantics"), The Early November, Jimmy Eat World
Listen: facebook.com/TakingBackSunday

Release date 18.03.2014
Hopeless Records

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