Tell All Your Friends, by Taking Back Sunday
Suggested by Craig Scott
When this review goes live, I’ll have been absent for ten days.
It’s not my first prolonged break from reviewing, and it won’t be my last. I started this project at a breakneck speed, full thrusters, taking a flamethrower to my candle, wide eyed and manic. I’d write until three, four in the morning, songs swirling around my addled brain.
I couldn’t keep that up forever. I did well, mind; I powered into mid-tier triple figures, and I’m proud of the output. But, eventually, something had to give. And while it might surprise you, it’s the music and not the words that gives me the most pause.
Maybe you’re not surprised by that. Maybe you’re thinking “well, Craig has telegraphed this in a number of reviews, bemoaning the abundance of Rap albums, or Growly nonsense. It’s logical that the weight of those genres will bog him down eventually.” Oddly, you’re partially wrong to think that, as I’m well-versed in opining against such sounds. What actually brought me low, and ground my output to a halt, was Yet Another Emo Band.
Taking Back Sunday are a New York Emo Rock band with a twenty-plus year pedigree, and a formative sound that likely forged the sounds of many other bands to come. To me, though, it sounds hackneyed and depressing. It presents as a buzzing irritant, with a frantic jangle sound to the guitars and a breathless and nervous tone to the vocal, as if the singer is being waterboarded, or is leaning back on the two legs of a dining room chair a little too far. It’s a galloping sound, eager to get somewhere but without the poise to check the map or ask for directions.
Another complaint? It’s dated. Not in an “old” way, but in a pinpoint accurate, turn-of-the-century way, with every bar from open to close counting as a tree-ring or a carbon dating footprint. You can swill it around the tongue like wine, gleaning its provenance and pulling subtle hints from its makeup, but at the end of the day it’ll get you sh*tfaced if you neck the bottle. I began this project looking to expand my musical horizons, and have succeeded, but albums like this are at ninety degrees to that ethos, as while they represent something new to me, they are clearly the cornerstones to other people’s fossilised tastes. It’s nice, entering the sculpture parks of other people’s musical gardens, but the art on display is more amber, when I’m looking for fire.
Perhaps I’m overthinking it. The songs are catchy, and written with energy. My standout track, the stuttering Timberwolves of New Jersey, brings the pop-punk vibe with aplomb, and the punk ballad Your So Last Summer is decent too, but in the end I find it all too self-reflective, too busy, too eager, too frenetic, too samey, too dated and too anxious to truly relax into it. Maybe on another day, in another frame of mind? Possibly.
Taking Back Sunday’s debut album gets 4/10. Go ahead and Tell All Your Friends that I’m well and truly over this sound.