Taking Back Sunday
Tell All Your Friends
At the risk of sounding harsh, there are two very distinct versions of the band that calls itself Taking Back Sunday: the lineup that recorded their 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends; and then, every other group of players singer Adam Lazzara & Co. have cobbled together since. Truthfully, there's just no comparison. Tell All Your Friends is as close as it gets to a modern masterpiece, capturing not just a band at their apex, but an entire scene. It will never be duplicated.
When Friends dropped, the fellow Long Island bands TBS called pals had already turned the punk and hardcore world on its ear, between Glassjaw's vitriolic noise-core, the Movielife's anthemic punk and recently, an inescapable slice of suburban angst called Your Favorite Weapon by a little band called Brand New. In many ways, TBS were the offspring/sibling of all those groups and a bunch more, whether through sound and/or personnel (TBS guitarist Eddie Reyes founded the Movielife; Brand New singer Jesse Lacey had previously played bass in TBS). Friends was the crossover breaking point, finally bringing what had been percolating for years in East Coast VFW Halls to the attention of the masses. Tell All Your Friends was the record that changed everything.
It's tough to find flaw with Tell All Your Friends, critically speaking. Sonically, there's just the right mix of well-honed production and controlled chaos, ensuring that the music”which is as bold, melodic and richly layered as anything else you'll hear in the genre always impresses with its tonal immensity. There's an epic grandeur to “You Know How I Do” or “You're So Last Summer”Â that pulls you in for the ride, before a word is ever sung. Reyes and vocalist/guitarist John Nolan are just as effective laying down choppy, single-note lines like on the verses for “Cute Without The 'E' (Cut From The Team)” as they are grinding out pummeling breakdowns like in “There's No I In Team”.Â The rhythm section never fails to keep pace, with drummer Mark O'Connell and bassist Shaun Cooper driving along the songs with a wide array of feels and tempos that interlock beautifully within a fairly constrained space.
The vocals are the final flourish; the simple reason for Friends' greatness, compared to everything else to follow it. There's something magical about the interplay between Lazzara and Nolan, both in the lyrics and performances, and Nolan's void has never been adequately filled. The album also produced so many lines now ingrained in our collective conscious (like “So obviously desperate/So desperately obvious”Â or “Boys like you are a dime a dozen”Â), it's hard to think of the release without immediately conjuring up a lyric that takes you right back to that time and place when you heard it. As years continue to pass, this quality only adds to the album's longstanding appeal.
For Reyes, Tell All Your Friends was sweet victory after more than a decade spent riffing away in some of the most important hardcore bands to come from Strong Island (in addition to the Movielife, Reyes can list Mind Over Matter, Clockwise and Inside to his resume, among others), but the musical bliss would be short-lived. Burning too brightly as a group to sustain themselves as individuals for the long haul, it wasnâ€™t much later that in-fighting, personal betrayal and creative tension led to the departure of Nolan and Cooper in 2003, ending the bandâ€™s golden era nearly as soon as it started. The two expatriates resurfaced in 2004 with the breathtaking self-titled debut by Straylight Run, painfully crystallizing all that TBS had lost. Although both bands would soldier on and make some respectable albums in the ensuing years, sadly neither would ever scale such heights again.