Taking Back Sunday - New Again

May 14, 2009 by Scott Heisel

Released:
May 29, 2009 - Warner Bros.

AP Rating:

Taking Back Sunday are a strange beast. Since the 2006 release of Louder Now, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Fred Mascherino left the band, and vocalist Adam Lazzara’s engagement to Eisley’s Chauntelle DuPree was abruptly called off, among other turbulent life events. Of course, in typical TBS fashion, these issues won’t be addressed in the press. But just like the best parts of the Bible are when God gets all vengeful on people’s asses, Taking Back Sunday albums shine most when frontman Adam Lazzara doesn’t hold back lyrically, and because of his willingness to open up--no matter how crypticly--on many of these songs, New Again leaps forward as the best album of Taking Back Sunday’s career to date.

Lazzara’s tongue lashings start with “Summer, Man,” which was likely written about Mascherino. The song’s thick, chunky riff drives the midtempo rocker through myriad indictments backed by Beach Boys-esque vocal “ooh”s (sample lyrics: “So go prove to the world what you already proved/That you just couldn’t do it on your own/Let’s have a talk about the good times/About how you were ‘always giving in’”).

Album closer “Everything Must Go” is most definitely directed toward Lazzara’s ex-fiancee DuPree, with its verses telling the story of moving in together and a chorus of, “You’d quote the good book/When it’s convenient/But you don’t have the sense/To tie your tangled tongue” wailed by Lazzara over one of TBS’ patented half-time breakdowns and some truly epic guitar spiraling. (Side note: Does any band do half-time breakdowns better than Taking Back Sunday? Is it even possible?)

Even though Lazzara’s obviously taking some shots at his various ex-partners, he’s not afraid to turn the barrel of the gun on himself, either: “Where My Mouth Is,” an airy ballad that’s sure to become a single, is about his rumored drug use (“I put my money where my mouth was/Until I couldn’t breathe through my nose”)-and is possibly an apology toJohn Nolan and Shaun Cooper, who acrimoniously departed TBS in 2003 over circumstances still left largely undiscussed (“And now I’m staring at the floor/Where my second life just ended/Where I lost not one, but two friends”). The song’s chorus, “See, I had it all/But I threw it away/Just to prove that I could,” is sung sweetly, belying Lazzara’s admission that he essentially let the original incarnation of TBS self-destruct.

Much of New Again’s music has a darker, more menacing vibe, and as such, sacrifices some of Louder Now’s highest pop peaks (“Liar (It Takes One To Know One),” “My Blue Heaven”) for an intensity the band have never had before. “Catholic Knees” features a bridge straight out of a Glassjaw song; “Lonely, Lonely” sounds like something leftover from Brand New’s The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me; the bouncy “Sink Into Me” never loses its magic even after dozens of listens; and the brilliant “Carpathia” is so well-written, it’s amazing to think four-fifths of this lineup wrote something as mundane as “Miami” just a few years back.

The only pockmark on this otherwise stellar album is “Capital M-E,” which should’ve been relegated to B-side status. Of course, that’s the one song that spells out Lazzara’s M.O. in plain English: “The nicest man I ever met/Was more malicious than malcontent/He taught me how to hold my tongue/And wait to strike until their backs were turned.” So to all future victims of the singer’s vitriol: You’ve been warned.

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