Taking Back Sunday seem to make changes in their lineup about as frequently as most sports teams do. This last change was a biggie, however, as they removed Matt Rubano and Matt Fazzi in the same breath that they used to bring back Shaun Cooper and John Nolan for their “reunion” lineup.
In March, we were given a new track “El Paso” that featured the newly reunited group. Heavier in tone, more simple in structure, and a vocal style that seemed almost borrowed from former touring partners Envy on the Coast. Fans reacted with a resounding “Taking Back Sunday is Back!”.
They weren’t wrong. This new EP showcases two new full-band tracks “This Is All Now” and “Best Places to Be a Mom” (I had a little WTF moment from the title), as well as an acoustic rendition of “Ghost Man on Third”. Immediately upon listening, this certainly sounds like the old TBS that fans grew attached to.
So is this good or bad? It depends on your preference, but for me it’s middle of the road. In fact, it’s so “middle of the road” that as I was writing this review, I forgot what the songs sounded like and had to go listen for a third time.
Taking Back Sunday certainly mastered the art of the 3.5-minute, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus format. Perfect for a slot on the radio, and perfect for playing in the background as you hold a conversation with someone in the car.
The anthemic, sing-along feeling is back full force, and it’ll surely have all those kids wearing beanies and nerd glasses raising their arms in the air and shouting all the words.
For me, 2009’s “New Again” was the only Taking Back Sunday record that could hold my interest to any degree. Largely a result of Matt Fazzi’s musical influence, the songs on that album started to break format. Some jazzy undertones came to light, some interesting chord changes, a showcase bass riff, stylish grooves, and even some killer lead guitar lines (see: “Everything Must Go”). But hey, “Best Places to be a Mom” has some lead guitar too, so give those four notes a chance.
Of course, Taking Back Sunday had a few small gems previously (“Error: Operator” and “What’s It Feel Like to be a Ghost?” come to mind), but these new tunes are underwhelming at best… and if you’ve noticed, I haven’t even addressed the acoustic track yet, simply because there isn’t much to say about it — It’s a song. It has chords. And it features a confusing audio mix with Adam singing like he’s 12 feet away from the microphone. I have to hand it to him though, he does sound slightly better than the “Live from Orensanz” performance (during which he was eclipsed by Fazzi’s immensely solid backing vocals).
Bottom Line: If you long for the old days of TBS, you will certainly enjoy this new release. It literally sounds like you’re back in 2006. But if you’re like me and are feeling underwhelmed, try listening to Matt Fazzi’s post-Taking Back Sunday effort Happy Body Slow Brain. Not only will you feel stimulated again, but you’ll be eagerly awaiting the future… rather than desperately clinging to five years ago.
– Clay Lancaster