Review Summary: How close is close enough?
It's been hard for the best part of a decade to know the best way to approach discussion about Taking Back Sunday. It doesn't really matter whether you're talking about the band's sound in general or specific albums or individual songs; what the fuck have this band been doing since the raw masterpiece that was Tell All Your Friends
? And I'm not for one second calling anything they've ever done bad - although Louder Now
strayed close to banal at points - I just don't know where to begin in light of the lineup changes and progression. Progression? Regression? God knows.
It's tougher still to accurately depict the weight under which Live At Orensanz
arrives and the importance of that context in appreciating the album on offer, because to part-time fans these eleven songs will sound conspicuous by their mellow vibe, and I'm sure the use of the word 'mellow' in any Taking Back Sunday review will already have more devout supporters of the band sitting up and taking notice. But it's definitely the right word. That doesn't mean it isn't intense, just that on this acoustic LP the anger and passion bubbles under the surface menacingly without - for the most part - release.
It's perhaps a fitting end to the lineup of the days of New Again
before the 2002 lineup reformed later in 2010 that on the surface Orensanz
sounds unspectacular, but on closer examination harbours deeper roots. The band's 2009 release grabbed hold of its listeners on a level which invoked nostalgia towards something universal and road-trip-ish and refused to let go, but here it's an even more powerful projection, as songs from the back catalogue of a band whose forte has always been emotional connection breathe and sigh under that same bond. Somehow the acoustic and relaxed nature of these tracks, complete with the gentle backing vocals of a clearly mesmerized crowd, comes to terms with the shouted sentiments of their originals in a way that always used to be left hanging.
Granted: another parallel to the New Again
years of Taking Back Sunday material is in the inconsistent nature of the track listing, which here neglects Tell All Your Friends
to a large extent and is slightly heavy on more recent material, but that's surely to be expected from the lineup on display. But it doesn't matter what era the songs are taken from, they all sound entirely organic and part of a seamless setlist, adorned with pianos and tender guitars and with the pace and vocal intensity scaled down to an intimate crawl. If all this sounds like the antithesis to Taking Back Sunday's usual ethos, then good. It is. But it's such a perfect one-eighty that it doesn't just work; it reveals an entire new dimension to the band's music which in turn puts a different shine on the studio tracks it strips down.
Live From Orensanz
is a seriously beautiful album in and of itself but more importantly it's a delicate epilogue to turmoil that threatened a fantastic band and to all the upheaval. From Friends
through Where You Want
and Louder Now
and all the way into New Again
achieves the seemingly impossible: it canonises Taking Back Sunday's back catalogue and finds the common threads of feeling that followed the band all the way from messy pop-punk through to the alt-rock of two years ago, tying them all together with an incredibly emotive attitude. If you haven't already, I wholly implore you to burden yourself with the context first, but once you've done so, come back to Orensanz
to relieve the pressure.