In, oh say, 2002, I listened to some pretty bad music, looking back. Well, I really only listened to one band: Linkin Park. Oh, did I love Linkin Park. I would listen to Hybrid Theory nonstop, with the occasional Eminem or Limp Bizkit CD thrown in to mix it up. Maybe even P.O.D! However, I was exposed to a little album entitled Tell All Your Friends
during this time period, and I thought little of it. I mean, it wasn’t nearly as hXc as the music I had been listening too, and the guy was just so whiney.
Enter two years into the future. The year is now 2004, and I’m listening to Taking Back Sunday’s second effort Where You Want To Be
. I did ever so love that album when it first came out, but it did cause me to remember that I had, in fact, listened to their first album. Picking up the album, I once again didn’t like it. However, this time I did catch some hint of why I now would like the album.
Enter yet again another year, it’s now 2005. I now think Where You Want To Be
is repetitive and unworthy of playing. However, I still continue to get *** from my friends, due to how much TBS is hated amongst the more “musically inclined” crowd I may hang with. In an effort to find a way to defend myself, I popped Tell All Your Friends
back into my computer, and much to my surprise (and delight), I found TAYF to be one of the most fun records I had listened too in quite a while.
Episode I: Tell All Your Friends
However, it doesn’t start out at the top of its game. You Know How You Do
is a track dominated by drums, and while some may enjoy it, John Nolan just isn’t skilled or interesting enough to catch my attention. Adam Lazzara is also at the top of his annoying-whiney factor, sounding like he is in the middle of one of those overly dramatic breakdown moments in a movie. It really does make the yelps of ”We Won’t Stand For Hazy Eyes Anymore”
sound even more clichéd and redundant than before. Luckily Bike Scene
comes to the rescue, with an infectious opening riff and more whiney, yet more in place, wails from Lazzara. While all that is fine and dandy, the song truly starts at the bridge, with Nolan taking lead vocals for a bit and Michele Nolan of Straylight Run coming in to sing about being on the edge of her seat. The rolling drum line compliments them both perfectly, and the final chorus of “I didn’t want it to mean that much to me”
sung by all three of them being one of the most “Hey, I’m not leaving your head for three days” kind of lines on the album.
Next is the in/famous single Cute Without The ‘E’
, which starts off with a sweet strummed guitar before moving into more TBS-like territory with a Lazzara and Nolan alternating vocals once again. Along with You’re So Last Summer, it’s the catchiest song on the album, and the repetitive yet fun and bouncy riff is a good summation of the song. Also of note is the bass line during the bridge; it’s an obvious shame that they had to lose Shaun Cooper, as he showed lots of talent on this album. Regardless of what could have been, There’s No ‘I’ In Team
is the strongest song on the album. One of the few instances where TBS nails everything head on, the chord-stabbed guitar and the once again alternating vocals give the song a disjointedness that makes the simple chorus extremely effective. In a rather large surprise, the lyrics are good. Not pretty good, not decent, genuinely good, and it’s all helped by the emotion Lazarra and Nolan give to their performance here. The closing line from Nolan of ”Best friends means I pull the trigger , Best friends means that you get what you deserve
is truly haunting, and who doesn’t like Steinbeck references?
Unfortunately, the next 4 songs are all veritable disappointments after 3 (perhaps 4) strong songs. Great Romances Of The 20th Century
is just plain annoying, whether its from the overly high-fret played guitar, or the banshee shrieks with relatively little emotion from Lazarra, its one of the few instances where one could wish for Nolan to completely take over. The slow song of the album is apparent in Ghost Man On Third
, and while it juxtaposes nicely with Great Romances…, TBS rarely does slow songs well and it’s mainly because Lazarra is not a crooner in any sense of the word. It’s apparent that he is trying to break free of the slowness, as he stops himself short on many of his lines. While this could obviously be for effect, it detracts from the mood of the song, and it’s the weaker younger sibling of There’s No ‘I’ In Team in that the disjointedness just doesn’t work.
Timberwolves At New Jersey
and The Blue Channel
fuse into one for me. Not because they sound the same (although that may be slightly true)., but because they follow the TBS formula so strictly without anything truly interesting added into the mix. Take a nifty intro, repetitive and catchy riff, and wails from Lazzara, harsh backing vocals from Nolan, and cliché-ridden lyrics. There, you have both Tiberwolves… and The Blue Channel. There isn’t much you can say about either. The Blue Channel does remind me of a My Chemical Romance song for some odd reason, so if you’re into MCR, that may be a good entry point into liking TBS.
The dumbest song title on the album, You’re So Last Summer
, hides one of its gems. it’s the most simplistic song on the album, with a basic verse=chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-anthemic lyric repeat-out way of doing things, but its just so damn catchy. By this point, it’s hard to say something new about a song; as there is admittedly a lack of variety on the album, but whether it’s the basic yet (once again) catchy riff, or the “so horribly clichéd and cheesy they’re hilarious” lyrics such as ”The truth is you could slit my throat and with my one last gasping breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt.”
, you can’t help but smile along with the song. The closing touch attempted with Head Club
is fairly successful. The initial drum roll sets the chaotic nature of the song into place right off the bat, and the Lazzara/Nolan combo is once again present in force, harkening back to There’s No ‘I’ In Team in emotion and punch. The final repeated chorus is once again haunting yet cliché; ”Don’t Call me name out your window I’m leaving”
is silly yet moving and in a sense “frightening”. I’m probably going a tad overboard with that sentiment, however.
So where does all of that leave us? Taking Back Sunday is cliché, repetitive, and at times overly whiney and simplistic. Yet, it all works. Those weaknesses are supplanted by the utter catchiness, fun & bounce, and occasional relatable and powerfully delivered lyrics. This was an inspired, if not polished and consistent, debut by a band that had an incredible amount of promise. Yes, they were purveyors of the “faux-emo” trend, but damn were they infectious nonetheless. It’s an unfortunate thing that they had to have a falling out, and replace bassist Cooper and guitarist/singer Nolan, and make…