Review Summary: New Again is a redeeming ode to the bastard inside all of us.
"My dear what long arms you have."All the better to hold you down"". The Little Red Riding Hood fairytale's inspired first lines of New Again
, Taking Back Sunday's fourth record, hold more meaning than some might think. It could be looked at as just a reference to a former lover and well, maybe it is about a former lover, but that could be applied on a deeper level too. Maybe the first lines Adam Lazzara sang are aimed toward the scene where they came from, with its long talons that are all the better to hold you down. And it makes sense. Especially if you're in a band that most of the scenesters consider their first record as part of something so special and unique, something they couldn't never live up to, since Tell All Your Friends
occupies such a special place in the hearts of the most of people of this community. So let's get this right off the bat: New Again
isn't for everyone and its themes are quite the opposite of Tell All Your Friends
. Why is TAYF so easy to relate to? It's easy to understand that. Besides being an amazing record, it's filled with high school drama about break ups and heartache. This is something the quiet and insecure kid that never scores to the toughest punk or the hottest girl in town can relate to. The fact it's an album filled with clever beautifully crafted lyrics helps, but the themes of the first record have an universal appeal. New Again
is a different kind of beast.
Adam Lazzara isn't the guy who would bleed himself to death and still say that he is sorry for having tainted a girl's tee anymore. Man, that was ages ago. And New Again
really shows that. He's a man now. And he isn't exactly the kind of man who will be dumped and write a record about it anymore either: he's the bastard. He's the one in command of his life. He's in charge, not only taking front on the vocal duties, but his own life. And he really doesn't seem very worried about what any of his former lovers – ex-girlfriends, ex-band members and rabid Tell All Your Friends
lovers alike - will think of him. It's the hardest thing to relate to most of people who fell in love with them in the past, since most of the scenesters will dedicate hours of their lives looking for the next perfect heartache song and blog about it, in a pathetic attempt of bringing back their former lovers. In life, you'll find people who will bring heartache and others who will be heartbroken. Most of the cases this work both ways, but there're some people that always will be dumped, always will be feeling sorry for themselves because that girl or boy not cared enough about them the way they think they should. And then there're the kind of people that are just boringly perfect: they'd never cheat, they'd never do drugs, they'd never take a walk on the wild side, the flesh and blood incarnation of the holy and righteous Ned Flanders. These groups of people will feel alienated by Lazzara's songwriting on New Again
. He'll look more like the menacing ex-boyfriend/boyfriend that haunts their relationships - or the lack of one besides music and platonic love.
After two successful albums with Fred Mascherino and Matt Rubano replacing John Nolan and Shaun Cooper on guitar/vocals and bass, respectively, a new change on the line-up ensues. Mascherino left the band allegedly for creative differences and went solo on his project called The Color Fred. What at first seemed an amicable break up turned into a new found feud. After months of uncertainty, enter on stage the math rock axeman Matt Fazzi to replace Mascherino in his vocal and guitar duties. And with Fazzi, a promise of coming back to their roots, with an album that capsulizes the energy of their first record. And they delivered a record filled with rage, guilt, luxury and a redeeming and urgent feeling of taking control of their own lives. Like a lover that can't take any more of his/her girlfriend/boyfriend, like a band that had enough of his old fans telling how they should sound and act. It may break some people's hearts, but the best analogy to Taking Back Sunday on the moment is the boyfriend that had enough. They cheated on you, they have broken your hearts, Adam broke hearts. Some will conveniently quote Tell All Your Friends
like a southern ex-girlfriend quotes the bible, and just like her, don’t have any sense to tie their tangled tongues and instead they'll slash it through the mud. It's a record similar to Tell All Your Friends
, in the sense that it's filled with drama and passion, and just like a boyfriend that is so sick of hearing his significant other complaining all the time, they kept their promise, but not in the way some would expect. It's a personal record, so much personal that it wouldn't make sense if the dueling vocals were present just like in the past on this one. Lazzara faced his demons and showed off his salt-licked wounds merely bruised like a badge of honor. Even though sometimes it's forgotten, heartbreakers do have feelings, and they want to change for the better, they want to get out of that path of destruction because that makes them miserable too, they want a chance of feeling new again. This album isn't for people that can’t relate to these feelings. It's a redeeming ode to the bastard inside all of us. It's about dealing with your guilt, insecurities, longing and living up to the expectations that are placed on your shoulders, and coming out all of that stronger and ready to hear you say that it's all good, what they are is good enough.
The musicianship on the album is top notch, leaps and bounds better than anything they've done in the past. It's arguably their heaviest record, with Eddie Reyes’s riffs soaring mean and fast, remembering more his hardcore days with The Movielife than any of Taking Back Sunday's previous records, allied that with all the technique learned with the pass of the years. Matt Rubano's bass lines show how much of a bassist he is, complementing perfectly Mark O'Connel tight and precise drums are definitely one of the highlights of the record. The addition of Matt Fazzi to the rhythm guitar probably plays a big part on adding so much detail to their sound, since he is known for his math rock background in his previous band, Facing New York. Although Fazzi's back up vocals take a backseat on this one, influenced by the producer David Kahne (Regina Spektor, The Strokes), it proves to be a wise decision having in mind that the lyrics are mostly about things Lazzara went through.
Nothing of this would work, however, if the once patron saint of the heartbreakers and now respectable married man with a child didn't deliver. It's a proven fact that Lazzara is at his best when he's pissed, and may God have mercy for the souls that he took a bite on this. Lazzara's wild card has always been wearing his heart up his sleeve, and this time he’s not holding back. From snarky jabs toward Fred Mascherino in “Summer, Man” (“Cause I ain't working for you anymore / No I ain't working for you anymore / So go prove to the world what you already proved / That you just couldn't do on your own”) and “Capital M-E” (“[The nicest man I ever met was more malicious than malcontent / Yeah he taught me how to hold my tongue and wait to strike till their backs were turned”) to gloriously angry and almost sexual bites in “Lonely, Lonely” (“See I ain't the boy that she loves the most / I'm just enough to fill the void her daddy left / Lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely / Don't you go changing for me / (She said) “Do you wanna get me high?””) and “Cut Me Up Jenny” (“And though you didn't have to leave the way you did / I've been watching you / I've been watching you / Most times you never knew / You are Sunday afternoon with nothing to do / You are Manhattan in June / As the population's wearing next to nothing”).
One of the steps on the road to recovery is making amends with the past and with himself, Lazzara deals with his own demons in a heartfelt beautifully crafted confession in “Where My Mouth Is” (“And now I'm staring at the floor / Where my second life just ended / Where I lost not one but two friends”). These lines may seem not that cryptic, but there’s a nod to something only some hardcore followers of the band will get.
Lazzara is a skilled songwriter with an unique vocal style, but that's what he was all about.... until New Again
. Maybe because he's taking the front and center at this time, but for the first time since Tell All Your Friends
, he is actually showing glimpses of real evolution with his vocal skills. It isn't about just screaming anymore, he has mastered in his own style, but when screams are needed, like in “Catholic Knees”, he shows that he still can do it, and does it better and more fiercely than ever.
Even though “New Again”, “Sink Into Me” and “Swing” have a big case of being the most catchiest tunes in Taking Back Sunday entire career, it's when Lazzara exposes his heart's scars that this record kicks out of the park. “Carpathia” (“I was a tower and you were an airplane / We happened before we knew what was happening”) is the name of the boat that rescued the survivors of the almighty (and drowned) Titanic, and its the name of one of the most strongest songs about real separation that I've heard in my entire life. It's human, it's the perspective of the person that provoked the break up and it's a relatable track for people that already had to take hard decisions. These last two tracks remember a lot - in tone - Tim Kasher's first solo album, The Good Life's Novena on a Nocturn
. And then we have the album's closer, “Everything Must Go”. It's epic. It's so haunting that even after several and several repeats, it still gives you the shivers and not enough words on any review will be capable of explain what this final track is. But like Frank Zappa once said, “talking about music is like dancing about architecture
As I said at the beginning, this record may not appeal to a part of their fanbase, used to a Taking Back Sunday that would be stuck in the past without taking their chances creating something new. It's about people that have committed mistakes. It's about a band that don’t let the others decide how they should sound and act. It’s about how their frontman decided to take back the control of his life and how this reflected in the band doing the same. It's summer, man. Is there a better season to start again than this one? They've broken up with the past and are living in the present. If ex-girlfriends, ex-band members and well, ex-fans can't take it, it ain't nothing stopping them now.