Have you ever been to an emo show? Do you remember singing along to that chorus that you love so much? Was singing along to that chorus the best part of that show?
The answer to that last question is important because it largely informs what you will think about Taking Back Sunday self-titled fifth album. While the majority of people in the know about TBS will prattle on and on about guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper’s return to the fold after leaving in a huff following the release of Tell All Your Friends, this wave of ‘TBS is back” press only serves to dissuade a critical listener to the real truth. Taking Back Sunday’s new album is not only the worst of their career, it is quite possibly one of the worst albums ever made by a scene-defining emo band.
Taking Back Sunday was always divisive, given that its lyrical quality was never too poetic. Tell All Your Friends was a mixture of violent, gun-related imagery and broken-heart-on-sleeve-isms, but at least in the early days vocalist Adam Lazarra and Nolan were writing as much as they could, simply because they couldn’t hold their emotions back. Taking Back Sunday, then, is the counterpoint to that unhinged lyrical aggression—the lyrics here frequently come off cloying, insincere, cringeworthy or downright lame. When Lazarra wails “I’m sorry/Come back!” on “Since You’re Gone,” it’s easy to read his break-up with Eisley leading lady Chauntelle DuPree playing a part, but the whole affair is so mucked with disgusting, over-30s retro-angst that the sentiment gets lost in a sea of laughter. Elsewhere Lazarra trends too dangerously misogynistic, using his rock star cred to legitimize cheating on a woman in “Faith (When I Let You Down).”
Evidenced by TBS’ increasingly glossy output post-Nolan leaving, it was assumed that Nolan’s return would jumpstart the energy and vitriol present on their original records, breaking them out of their spiral down into the doldrums of Angels & Airwaves, 30 Seconds to Mars and Foo Fighters land. Apparently, not so. Nolan re-up with the band now appears to be purely a band PR move—there is no qualitative difference between Nolan and Matt Fazzi, who was so important to TBS’ last record, New Again, that you forgot he was even part of the band. Nolan is reduced to screaming and harmonizing, which on paper doesn’t sound far removed from his old duties in TBS.
Given even a cursory run through both Tell All Your Friends and this album, the difference is immediately apparent—John Nolan has no major creative part in Taking Back Sunday anymore, and he is yet another sidekick to the Adam Lazarra meteor of mediocrity.
The album’s crushing lyrical monotony (every chorus is repeated at least five times; trust me, I checked) would be more easily justifiable were Taking Back Sunday still roaring with its former post-hardcore aggression. In its place, however, we get a slate of nearly identical mid-tempo radio rock songs, many of which don’t sound removed enough from Daughtry’s output (the chorus of “Doesn’t Feel A Thing Like Falling”). Even better excuses for songs, like the admittedly rollicking “El Paso” or the passable “Best Places to be a Mom” highlight how awful Taking Back Sunday has truly become—cheap love songs (“You Got Me”), boring femme fatale stories (“Money (Let It Go)”) and even a self-important pop talk (“This is All Now”) are all given green lights for a proper LP, yet the propulsive rager “Ballad Of Sal Villanueva” gets relegated to rarities comps and torrent downloads. AP.net kids may not realize it now, but we live in a world where Taking Back Sunday has become all that emo should not be, eclipsing Pete Wentz’s descent into tabloid nonsense. Taking Back Sunday is no longer the band that missed its opportunity to be great. They’re the band who wasted its opportunity.
Taking Back Sunday – s/t Tracklist:
- “El Paso”
- “Faith (When I Let You Down)”
- “Best Places To Be A Mom”
- “Sad Savior”
- “Who Are You Anyway?”
- “Money (Let It Go)”
- “This Is All Now”
- “It Doesn’t Feel A Thing Like Falling”
- “Since You’re Gone”
- “You Got Me”
- “Call Me In The Morning”