"If you should change your name, I'll love you just the same, And if you should run away, I would save your place," on behalf of the original Taking Back Sunday fanbase, doesn't this lyrical line off the band's single "Flicker, Fade" just feel so right? Somewhere deep within the subconscious of my 13-year-old self, hearing the Tell All Your Friends lineup continue to write music as a fully functioning band makes the listening experience of its latest LP Happiness Is all the more exciting.
"Flicker, Fade" harkens back to the group's early days as Adam Lazzara's passionate performance effortlessly touches on a series of emotions without compromising a singular vision. With heavily distorted riffs complementing passages of acoustic guitars, the dynamic instrumental section allows Lazzara to reach peak levels of personal expression. Happiness Is follows the direction of "Flicker, Fade" as it sounds like a natural maturation of the blueprint established by Taking Back Sunday during the early 2000s. The rooted elements of post-hardcore, punk, and alternative just evolved with time as the band grew as songwriters.
Much to the discretion of fans still waiting for the Tell All Your Friends sequel, the original lineup doesn't try to recreate the raw emotional power of its debut album. In fact, trying to duplicate the same energy, as five hungry kids from Long Island would most likely backfire from a songwriting perspective. Even with the poshier production of Happiness Is, the original fire is still burning for Taking Back Sunday, especially on the tracks "Stood A Chance," "Beat Up Car," and "Better Homes and Gardens." On "Beat Up Car," Lazzara sings, "Stalled at the gates and that simply won't do / under artificial light I drink myself blind / I won't watch you kill yourself / or leave you here to rot to death of loneliness." The bleak honesty of the song's lyrics showcases Lazzara's one-of-a-kind ability to delve into the darkest moments of his personal life and transition those feelings of disparity into moments of beauty. For any listener who turned to Taking Back Sunday while dealing with personal issues or obstacles, Lazzara's material still strikes a chord when he pours his heart onto the sheets. The listener witnesses his growth not only as a songwriter but also as a person with each album. Lazzara and John Nolan bounce off one another as a definitive vocal tandem especially on "Stood A Chance," as they trade off the chorus with shear melodic perfection.
When the music calls for the moment, Nolan and Eddie Reyes deliver crunch-filled riffs of hectic measures behind Mark O'Connell and Shaun Cooper's in-your-face rhythm section. The guitar playing remains signature Taking Back Sunday until the album's closer "Nothing At All", which moves away from punkish guitar picking into acoustic strumming. It's highlighted by a soft chorus orchestrated with string instruments that adds a tone of delicacy and ambiance to the track.
For curious Taking Back Sunday fans old and new, Happiness Is takes elements of the entire catalog and melds those different sounds together in a cohesive manner. No Taking Back Sunday album sounds alike but Happiness Is summarizes a career spanning over 15 years. As evidenced by the energy surrounding the 10th anniversary of Tell All Your Friends, this is the definitive lineup of Taking Back Sunday. These five musicians bring out the best in each other musically especially when going off the strength of their two prior records. Its latest LP isn't so much of a drastic change for the band's sound as it's more of a sonic growth in performance and songwriting. The core elements of the past were maintained while some experimentation helped push Happiness Is into greater territory. Make sure to Tell All Your Friends to check out Happiness Is.
Happiness Is is out now on Hopeless Records. Get your copy here.
Watch Taking Back Sunday perform classics in the Baeble HQ basement...