While Tell All Your Friends and Louder Now have gone down in emo history as classic albums, Taking Back Sunday have arguably hit something of a snag in recent years. Their original lineup reformed in 2010, and have since released two meh albums – Taking Back Sunday and Happiness Is… – which have taken them off the radar of many in favour of the genre’s new breed. But Taking Back Sunday are back, refreshed, and with a new album, which they’ve labelled as their best since reforming.
And looking at some of the songs on Tidal Wave, the statement definitely has some truth to it – this album contains some of the best Taking Back Sunday material in years. Take the heartwarming, fist-pumping Call Come Running for instance. It’s one of the best examples of how the quintet have turned their loose trademarks into bonafide Taking Back Sunday-isms. Even though this record is far above the rough-around-the-edges releases from their prime production-wise (far from it actually), all of those characteristics are still at the fore – a hint of punk wooliness, jagged riffs and catchy choruses sung with Adam Lazzara’s characteristic soaring voice. They’re not hard things to execute, but they’re near impossible to execute like Taking Back Sunday do (especially the songwriting – lyrics have never been their strong suit). But they’ve taken all of this which worked in the early noughties, and added it to a modern formula. As a result, we get straight-up rock song Death Wolf and its scenic minute long intro and the punk-tinged title track.
All of this hints at a good result, but irritatingly, it isn’t. While Taking Back Sunday have clearly perfected their recipe for a brilliant rock song, they’ve kept its use to a minimum in favour of the clichéd experimentation route. Half of Tidal Wave consists of spineless ballads with wishy-washy effects plaguing them. Homecoming is an attempted acoustic campfire singalong song, but it’s wholly uninteresting with an overpowering drumbeat, while the dismal I Felt It Too does nothing but drag on for five-and-a-half minutes. Towards the end there’s a build-up of fuzzy drums implying some kind of salvaging upbeat climax, but they cut out suddenly and the song ends arguably wetter than it started. There wouldn’t be a problem if the ballads on this album followed the structure of Fences, which marries electric and acoustic guitars as well as throwing lush string arrangements into the mix. It’s in no way reinventing the wheel, but it’s a lot more palatable than the drab attempts at tender emotion which come off more as simpering than anything else.
Tidal Wave is an album of two halves – the tracks which showcases the much-improved version of the classic Taking Back Sunday sound, and the lifeless, droopy remainder. There are (small) hints of promise from this new sound, namely the gorgeous instrumental outro to closer I’ll Find A Way To Make It What You Want. Although it takes far too long to get to, it’s the only time on this album the new, synth-tinged feel actually works (it’s certainly not In The Middle Of It All’s awful voice effect bridge). But it’s that former half which is far and away the credible one, and it’s such a shame to see scene pioneers abandon their strengths in favour of such a lacklustre new direction. Let’s hope they realise what they’re good at sooner rather than later.
For fans of: The Used, Yellowcard, Mayday Parade
Words by Georgia Jackson
‘Tidal Wave’ by Taking Back Sunday is released on 16th September on Hopeless Records.