Taking Back Sunday – ‘152’

By Katherine Allvey

With seven studio albums and two decades in the music business already under their belt, where could Taking Back Sunday possibly go next? They’ve checked emo and post-hardcore off their subgenre to-do list in the intervening years after since their 2006 breakthrough, but their desire to make music that surpasses boundaries and focuses on a human connection is still their predominant driving force. “When we’re writing songs, the one thing we ask ourselves is, ‘will it make people feel something?’” Drummer Mark O’Connell asks rhetorically. “You try to make people feel emotion. That’s the one goal we went in with, and I think we did it.”

It’s a noble aim, and with their every tattoo-worthy lyric preaching hope and connection, this is an album which will definitely keep a lot of people warm at night. Initial single drop ‘Amphetamine Smiles’ bounces from a Coldplay first half into a bittersweet, mellow tribute to friends lost along the way. ’S’Old’ has one heck of a beat, and finally lets vocalist Adam Lazzara unleash that voice. However, it appears that Taking Back Sunday are coming out of their cages and doing just fine as so much of this record, from the faded grandeur of the soundscapes that the band inhabit to the big sweeping post-punk chords they fling at every opportunity, seems to have been arranged by Brandon Flowers. In fact, ’The One’’s nostalgic nihilism could be taken straight from a Killers’ song, with only the vocalists swapped to distinguish the two bands. This is not necessarily a criticism, considering how many records the Killers have sold and the high praise their tepid Reading Festival set earned recently, but if you’re looking for the spiked, sheet-stained authenticity of Taking Back Sunday’s earlier releases, you won’t find it on ‘152’. If you want songs that could fill a stadium with glowstick-clutching hands that cast firefly lights, then you will love the scale of this album. 

Take ‘Lightbringer’ as Exhibit B. Slow, building chords are replaced with a melody very, very similar to “Boys of Summer’, which is then swept away by Lazzara’s matured, granite-melting voice. There’s not a lot of the Long Island youth left in the men of Taking Back Sunday, but there’s the potential for vast music which fills the night sky. Exactly the same point could be made about the near-identical ‘New Music Friday’. It’s a great song for sure, and will play well at next year’s festivals, especially if they are on the same bill as a certain band from Las Vegas. Any sweat or grime has been wiped away from the Taking Back Sunday sound with pleasant smelling baby wipes, and what we have is an appealing set of songs. But they aren’t from the Taking Back Sunday we knew and wept with for all of these years. 

Just when we think all hope for hopeless longing is gone, along comes ‘The Stranger’. With muscles clenched and fists balled, Taking Back Sunday are spoiling for a fight born from a desire to feel alive. Lazzara yelps through a track as empty as an alley in the bad part of town. They’ve still got their old fight in them somewhere, as they proved on the tragic opener ‘Amphetamine Smiles’. For much of this record though it’s obscured, hidden behind layers and layers of filters. 

“The problem isn’t that I’ve changed / The problem is that you’ve stayed the same,” accuses Lazzara on ‘Keep Going’, almost as if he’s pre-empted the reception ‘152’ will receive. Yes, it’s unreasonable to expect that they’ll be making exactly the same music as they did in the first years of this century, and yes, to expect an evolution in sound is reasonable. However, we can only hope that Taking Back Sunday haven’t left their charm behind in the smaller venues they once played now that they’ve taken a big jump towards the mainstream. 

KATE ALLVEY

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