They’re an enduring bunch, Taking Back Sunday. Since breaking through in 2002 (yeah, we’re all really old now) they’ve been through 3 line-up shifts with the third taking them full circle, all the way back to the ‘classic’ ‘Tell All Your Friends’ version that many fans had longed for since the original departure of Messrs. Nolan and Cooper. Now, the word classic getting the inverted comma treatment may seem strange, but truth be told, until 2014’s ‘Happiness Is’, that version of Taking Back Sunday only had one standout album to their name. There was a disjointed feel about the initial, self-titled reformation effort and whilst there were some great tracks, each of the previous three full lengths were arguably more well-rounded and consistent.
By now, though, with over five years of Nolan and Cooper having been fully integrated with guitarist Eddie Reyes, drummer Mark O’Connell and their enigmatic vocalist, Adam Lazzara, there’s an unsurprising expectancy for Taking Back Sunday to deliver.
As they’ve often done, the Long Islanders start strong on ‘Tidal Wave’ with ‘Deathwolf’. After Lazzara’s distant refrains of “Nobody will know” quieten, the punk switch is flicked as the band kick into one of their more excillerating efforts in recent times. It has an air of ‘Louder Now’ about it as Lazzara and Nolan’s vocals play off each other in the way that long-departed Fred Mascherino’s did with the frontman – the dark switch in tone midway through proving a particular highlight.
The quintet has also been known to throw a little curveball when it comes to choices of first singles and initial glimpses at their albums. The title and lead-off track for this release is no different. Despite being a definite grower, ‘Tidal Wave’ doesn’t really reflect the tone of the album with its similarities to a certain song by The Clash. That being said, they should be commended for being willing to play with their sound – a lot has changed since those early angst-filled efforts.
However refreshing it may be that they’re willing to take a road less-travelled, some of the curveballs don’t quite hit the mark. ‘Fences’ has all the hallmarks of a decent Taking Back Sunday song until it’s stopped in its tracks with a slightly weak, acoustic-strumming chorus. That’s not a problem encountered on ‘You Can’t Look Back’ and ‘All Excess’ with the later being absolutely trademark TBS, in a good way.
In fact, there’s plenty of examples of Taking Back Sunday doing Taking Back Sunday really well. ‘Holy Water’ has a great John Nolan vocal melody under the chorus – it stays with you for the rest of the day and redeems Lazzara’s overly strained vocals in places. ‘We Don’t Go In There’ is another example of the band following their own format and doing it very well. They’ve always been at their best in darker shades with the odd snarky lyric and that is exactly what we get here with lines like “You make it sound sound so simple, you make it sound so sweet, you make it seem so easy, lying through your teeth”.
As we enter the further reaches of the album, ‘Homecoming’ provides what feels like a joyful closer only to be followed by the actual closer in ‘I’ll Find A Way To Make It What You Want’. In keeping with most TBS efforts, the closer is mostly a slow, hushed number (complete with Kanye West-style autotune, oddly). Once you’ve figured out what a few of the lyrics remind you of (it’s Coldplay’s ‘Politik’ by the way), the end release does a nice job of rounding a neat and tidy album.
At this stage in their career, Taking Back Sunday are unlikely to ever truly scale the heights of yesteryear – instead, it’s far more likely that they will carry on down the same path they’ve taken for the entirety of the band’s lifespan by adding 5 or 6 gems to their catalogue on every album cycle. They already have a back catalogue that most bands of their age and genre would kill for, ‘Tidal Wave’ simply adds a few more favourites to the ranks.
‘Tidal Wave’ is out now via Hopeless Records.
This Taking Back Sunday article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor.