Review Summary: The epitome of teen angst
Sometimes a band releases an album and once you listen to it, you immediately realize that the band will never release another album of the same quality. A couple of examples would be OK Computer by Radiohead and … Is A Real Boy by Say Anything, It could be for a number of reasons. Nothing that Radiohead has released since and may release in the future won’t touch OK Computer, simply because that album is on an entire different level than almost all of the other music out there. …Is A Real Boy won’t be matched because the only way for Say Anything to create an album of that magnitude again would be for Max Bemis to go insane again, which isn’t happening now that he has a girlfriend and is a devout Christian (which are well documented in his songs). Both are for completely different reason, but the end result is the same.
I digress. The reason I mention this phenomenon is that this particular album falls into that select category of albums. When listening to TAYF, it is clear that the band won’t be able to put the same energy, the same angst into another full album for the rest of their career, especially once you have the knowledge that guitarist/essential backup singer John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper left the band on bad terms after releasing this album. Even though they have now gotten back together, it is much too late for them to be able to release an album of this emotion and quality, for the members are much too old to be writing about the song topics found on this album.
John Nolan is the key to this album being a classic. His guitar always either drives the song along or adds a little nuance that makes the song that much better, and his screaming but somehow pleasing voice mixes with Adam’s perfectly. The vocal and lyrical interchanges are both wonderful to listen to and quite clever at the same time. A good example of this is “Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)”. There is a fading out of John screaming, “back!” while some soft piano chords come in on top of a nice, solid beat. Adam comes in rapidly singing, “Hoping for the best is hoping nothing happens, a thousand clever lines unread on clever napkins,” and then John comes in singing, “Why can’t I feel anything from anyone other than you?” Yet another example of this occurs in the outro of the song, which indicates how often the band employs this technique.
The piano chords in the aforementioned bridge show another important factor in this album being a classic: production. Every now and then, you catch a little section of a song with piano, or strings, or a backing female voice. This is almost certainly the doing of producer Sal Villanueva. The two songs where this is most apparent are "Great Romances of the 20th Century” and “The Blue Channel”. The original version of the former song has some random black guy rambling, instead of the mellow, beautiful strings intro of the album version. “The Blue Channel” has the same intro, except 50 times slower on a keyboard. The album version is much faster and cleaner sounding on the piano. Both of these changes are essential to the flow of the album, which is, surprisingly enough, quite good. The songs go into one another quite well, especially “Bike Scene” into “Cute Without the E” and “Timberwolves of New Jersey” into “The Blue Channel”. The latter of those transitions is especially good. The screaming at the end of “Timberwolves” segues effortlessly into the speedy piano intro of “The Blue Channel.
Another major facet of a majority of the songs in this album is the breakdown section. Usually occurring after the second chorus, they change the music up a bit and allow the lyrics to take center stage. A good example of this is “There’s No I In Team,”. There is quite a story behind this song. You see, John Nolan had a little affair with Jesse Lacey’s girlfriend. Jesse didn’t like that, so he left the band and formed his own little band. You may have heard of them somewhere before. Anyways, the two of them argued over the phone and the words, “Is this what you call tact? You’re as subtle as a brick in the small of your back, so let’s end this call and end this conversation,”. These lyrics can also be found in “Seventy times 7,”, which is the song that “There’s No I In Team” is responding to. Don’t worry, Jesse and John are now once again on good terms.
I’ve forgotten to mention one last reason why this album is a classic. The songs are ***ing brilliant. “Head Club” is undoubtedly one of my favorite album closers of all time. Lyrics like, “I’m sick of writing every song about you,” and “Don’t call my name out your window, I’m leaving,” are an absolutely perfect ending to the album. “Timberwolves of New Jersey” is a full-blast, energetic song, with Adam spitting out lyrics over power chords. The instrumentation is good all across the board in every song. Shaun Cooper is at the least a decent bassist, never really taking center stage but always being there to support the song. Mark O’Connell is a very good drummer, knowing when to use simple beats to drive the song along (Cute Without the E, You’re So Last Summer) and knows when to get a bit more inventive when the track is lacking something (You Know How I Do, There’s No I In Team). John Nolan and Eddie Reyes write guitars that interchange effortlessly and sound brilliant together (even if they aren't technically brilliant), drawing the casual listener in with catchy hooks over solid rhythm guitar to allow him to discover all of the little details in the album.
This is an album that everyone who still had youth in their veins should listen to at least once. Everyone will be able to connect with at least one of the songs. The angsty feel found throughout the album is perfect for whenever you’re in an angry, I-hate-everyone kind of mood. However, the album can really be listened to whenever, no matter what mood you’re in. It’s that good. If you haven’t listened to this yet, I implore you, gather some money, go to the local music store, and pick up a copy. You won’t be disappointed.
Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)
Timberwolves of New Jersey
You’re So Last Summer