Review Summary: Another premature comp by an ex-Victory band. This one divides Taking Back Sunday's first two albums between 12 songs.
Victory Records seem to be lacking a ‘hit’ band. As anyone who keeps up with modern Pop-Punk knows, the majority of their recent big-sellers (Hawthorne Heights, Atreyu, etc.) have up and left the label, the former of which has since sued the label. On top of this, the new Aiden and Silverstein albums didn’t exactly excite too many people. So it seems that, instead of searching for new blood, the company execs at Victory have turned to the back catalog to line its pockets. The label has already released a premature Atreyu best of, and, on October the 30th, they release a sort of compilation of long gone Victory act Taking Back Sunday’s first two releases.
A brief look over the tracklist reveals Notes from the Past
is divided, rather unfairly, between the mediocre Where You Want to Be
(6 songs), its far superior predecessor Tell All Your Friends
(4 songs) with a couple of B-Sides (2 songs). The tracklist woes do not end here, the album begins with You Know How I Do
, a song that, being neither a single or a standout, has no business making up a fourth of Tell All Your Friends’ section. It’s one of the more generic songs on Friends, but does show off the chemistry between early backing vocalist John Nolan and lead singer Adam Lazzara well. This chemistry is evident in not one but all of the tracks representing Friends. Their vocal interplay is what makes listening to these songs so much fun, it’s what separates Taking Back Sunday from many of their counterparts and the lack of it is one of the contributing factors to Where You Want to Be’s drop in quality. On A Decade Under the Influence
, Nolan’s successor Fred Mascherino comes closest to matching what Nolan and Lazzara once had. Mascherino, whose shouts sound damn close to that of Nolan’s, makes the song, climaxing it by repeatedly screaming “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”
over dense guitars.
The compilation manages to skip out on a few singles (Set Phasers to Stun, Great Romances of the 20th Century), surprisingly enough, but doesn’t leave out the big hits. Cute Without the “E” [Cut from the Team]
is bouncy and driving, led to success by palm muted, down picked guitar and genuinely brilliant vocal melodies/lyrics. It’s a bit too sugary and overproduced to bring to mind Hardcore of yesteryear, but its closer to that period than a band like Hawthorne Heights will ever achieve. This Photograph is Proof
features slightly abstract verses, during which bassist Matt Rubano’s semi-inventive lines cut through the up-stroked guitar with ease. This creates a sparse instrumental base for Lazzara and Mascherino to trade lines off of and a stark contrast to the chorus, which is much more straight forward. You’re So Last Summer
is easily the most Pop oriented tune that either of Taking Back Sunday’s indie discs housed.
Lazzara, Mascherino and Nolan don’t wane from their usual topics of breaking hearts and being heart broken much at all throughout Notes. Taking Back Sunday’s lyrics, however, are clever, memorable and easy enough to relate to. Lazzara’s most notable moment is when he crys “You could slit my throat/and with my one last gasping breath/I'd apologize for bleeding on your shirt”
during the middle of You’re So Last Summer
. It’s a line that will either make you love or hate Tell All Your Friends but one that, either way, is going to leave an impression. The biggest change in topic comes from the best non-single off Where You Want to Be, its closing track, …Slowdance on the Inside
. The song’s lyrical content deals with the same Brand New drama that birthed There’s No “I” in Team (a standout from Tell All Your Friends that is noticeably absent from this collection). It’s still semi-eloquent and catchy, but the way the song builds up from somber ballad to a heavy climax makes it stick out, musically, from anything else on Notes from the Past. Overall, Taking Back Sunday’s lyrics are a little morbid ( “we’re going to die like this/miserable and old”
goes the chorus to Number 5 with a Bullet
) but always catchy and confessional.
Though it suffers from choosing B-sides and a few too many Where You Want to Be tracks over cuts from one of Pop-Punk’s best modern releases, Notes from the Past isn’t too bad a compilation. It doesn’t, however, really accomplish what I’m sure Victory released it to do. If you don’t own any Taking Back Sunday, Tell All Your Friends is an infinitely better choice for an introduction. It’s of higher quality and flows like a regular CD. If you do have Taking Back Sunday’s releases already, The Ballad of Sal Villanueva
, which appears on the re-release of Friends, and Your Own Disaster ‘04
a piano based, electronic ballad from the Japanese version of Where You Want to Be shouldn’t really entice you to pick this up at all, despite both being fine songs in their own right. Victory is even charging $17 dollars for the disc on their website; save yourself the trouble, just get Tell All Your Friends and the singles off of WYWTB.