Taking Back Sunday is an alternative rock band that was started by guitarist Eddie Reyes and drummer Mark O’ Connell back in 1999. With 5 records to their name, the band has been a polarizing group for several reasons. Lots of musical artists that are up and coming or recently established are really influenced by their music; most notably the 2002 release, Tell All Your Friends and 2004’s Where You Want to Be. However, a lot of people are also turned off by some of the band’s actions of the past. Quite frankly, the band never seemed to fully deal with the departures of guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper back in 2003. In 2010, John and Shaun re-joined the band after seven years and seemed to bury the past and look toward the future. The band’s self-titled record is eleven songs that clocks in at just under 40 minutes.
The album starts off with a blistering number in “El Paso” that may be the most aggressive song the band has in its name. Like the band, the song seems to be very polarizing as the fans either love or strongly dislike it. The second song on the record is, “Faith (When I Let You Down)” which is the lead single for the record. The song is more of a mature sound that has a radio feel to it. It is not the best song on the record, but it is certainly not bad either. “Best Places to Be a Mom” follows and was one of the first songs to be introduced to the public. Clips of the song were played in studio updates throughout the recording process of the album. The song is one of the better tracks on the record and is the only one to really have the feel of a Tell All Your Friends song. The song features the back and forth vocal delivery of Nolan and Adam Lazzara that has kind of become the band’s trademark. The heavily distorted guitar lines are also similar to something on TAYF. The first three songs are all completely different, but all sound good and have great momentum built up heading into the middle portion of the record.
The fourth track, “Sad Savior” is a mid tempo rock song that is kind of uninteresting until the bridge and up through the end. The lyrics are pretty good, there is some guitar experimentation in the bridge, and the overall vibe picks up to close the song. However, musically it is just not one of the better songs for the first two thirds through. “Who Are You Anyway” is another dull song that actually sounds like a song former member Fred Mascherino would have written. The biggest issue with the song is the chorus is just kind a bland. “Money (Let It Go) is more of an experimental song for the band. From the guitar progressions and the distorted bass line, the song stretches their boundaries a bit more. It is better than the previous two songs, but is overall one of the more average songs. Mark’s drumming is highlighted nicely and John’s aggressive screams sound really good.
Kicking off the later portion of the record, “This Is All Now” is a slower song that builds up to a soaring chorus featuring both voices oozing with passion. Similar to a lot of the better songs the band has written they close the song in superb fashion. “It Doesn’t Feel a Thing Like Falling” is a good rock number that has a nice guitar rhythm and a good chorus. While it would have been nice to have the back and forth vocals on the song, it really does highlight Adam’s vocals. Even on the down tracks Adam’s vocals have never sounded better on a record. Everyone has a calling and singing/writing is Adam Lazzara’s calling.
“Since You’re Gone” is an uptempo rocker that comes across as a bit of therapy through writing in regards to a rough moment in life. John’s piano lines are a welcome touch as well. Overall the song works within the record. “You Got Me” is one of the best songs on the record with Best Places. This song will probably translate well to the their live show. Taking Back Sunday is a live band and this song feels like a live song. The album closer, “Call Me in the Morning” is a mellow song that is good, but is kind of an odd choice in the closer role. The song probably fits better in the six to seven range as a bridge, but that is nitpicking.
Overall, the record is a good rock record. It comes down to expectations, though. If you go in expecting to hear TAYF part two or other unrealistic expectations, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you go in with an open mind and no expectations then you will take this record for what it is. Lets not forget that the members are just trying to be friends again, let alone writing together again. The overall test of whether they can still create quality songs together is accomplished. Not all of the songs are their best work, but most of them were really good. The lyrics are some of their best work and the vocal displays of both Adam and John are top notch. The biggest problem with the record is the same problem the band had with producer Eric Valentine on Louder Now, which is the drum sounds. The drums sound muffled and do not really justify Mark’s drumming ability at all. Mark is a more than capable drummer and the drum sounds on this record to put it nicely, leave something to be desired. Again, this is not a knock towards Mark as you can tell some of the drum parts will sound great live. Some of the songs sound a little too produced as well. TBS sounds best when they have the rough around the edges feel to it. Some of that was lost on this record like Louder Now . On a scale of 0-100% this record is probably a 75%-80%. There are some glaring issues, but overall it is really a good record. Fans should take head of the fact this band can write good songs again and will probably have their best work ahead of them. As fans we shouldn’t expect another TAYF, but we should expect that passion and energy to carry over on their forthcoming work. Overall, that energy and passion is still there and this band has a bright future once again.