Taking Back Sunday is not the same band they were in 2002. Going through a series of changes, specifically in their roster, the Long Island quintet, who played the 2012 Vans Warped Tour Saturday, has expanded and grown considerably. In 2010 fan favorite guitarist/vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper announced their return to the band, and with that, plans for a new album. Flash forward to 2011 and TBS’s self-titled record showcases a decade old band with a whole lot of life left in them.
This self-titled release is undoubtedly one of the strongest entries in their canon. Drawing from the band’s previous releases, and returning members’ independent efforts (Straylight Run), Taking Back Sunday’s Taking Back Sunday may not be the fan favorite album Tell All Your Friends is, but it is most definitely the quintet’s most definitive release. Instead of rehashing or retreading their previous work, TBS delivers a tonality that seems to be the natural progression of their catalogue. Drawing influence from every album along the way, Taking Back Sunday is a sonic assault that is both familiar and foreign at once.
Taking Back Sunday is an album that explores a number of territories, but still manages to stay cohesive. The opening track, “El Paso,” displays a fury only touched upon in previous works. It is a fitting album opener that captures the energy, anxiety, and revitalization of a band reunited. With tracks such as “Faith (When I Let You Down),” “You Got Me,” and “This is All Now,” fans are treated to a sort of déjà vu. These songs capture the character of the band at a basic level. They feel natural, and flow with ease as they catalogue the band’s progression and growth.
A notable charm throughout the record is distinction. The quintet’s signature vocal duality is on display; however, here it has a tighter syncopation, which dabbles in melody just as much as schizophrenia. Also, over the last few years, TBS have differentiated their instrumentation, specifically their guitar work. Former guitarists/vocalists Fred Mascherino and Matt Fazzi provided exemplary guitar work over TBS’s last three albums, and unfortunately this is where Taking Back Sunday falls slightly short.
Strong guitar work similar to Mascherino’s intricate fretwork and Fazzi’s quirky leads is absent throughout the album. Instead Nolan and Reyes display a tighter dynamic that’s amma motto seems to be ‘less is more.’ Though this is far from a negative, it may be a bit jarring for listeners. Overall, the interaction between Nolan and Reyes has definitely improved. Both deliver a slew of new tricks, which serve each song as a whole instead of acting as independent flair.
The remaining members show the culmination of their musical progression. Mark O’Connell continues to balance steady pacing and dynamic on drums as he and bassist Shaun Cooper fill each song with strong syncopation. Vocalist Adam Lazzara seems to have found his working range as he delivers solid lyrical content through various tonalities. Lazzara’s lyrics don’t feel as forced as they sometime have. Instead, they’re more honest and personal resulting in a much more genuine feel.
All in all, Taking Back Sunday is what many albums fail to be, an album. Organic in feel, and comprehensive in scope this album cultivates all the work that has come before it. Though it’s hard to deem any album as being ‘the best,’ Taking Back Sunday is a comprehensive album that showcases every step of TBS’s decade spanning career. Taking Back Sunday has undeniably changed throughout their career. Yet, through all these changes this Long Island quintet have come full circle to carve out one of the strongest entries in their discography.