Sound — 9
I 2002's Tell All Your Friends put New York's Taking Back Sunday on the map as the frontrunners for the emo' scene. We'll let that be the only time that word gets brought up, dont worry. 2004 brought Where You Want To Be, their second album and first with guitarist/vocalist Fred Mascherino after the departure of John Nolan (see: Straylight Run). After Louder Now (2007), Mascherino, too, fled the band (see: The Color Fred), and they were forced to find yet another new guitarist. Lineup changes are nothing new to this band, after dropping 2 bassists (one being Jesse Lacey; see: Brand New), a drummer, a lead vocalist and 2 lead guitarists; the band has made about as many changeups as Guns n' Rose. The one remaining member is rhythm guitarist and Taking Back Sunday founder Eddie Reyes, the Axl Rose to his Guns, minus all the negatives that come along with being Axl Rose. In 2008, the search commenced and was finished rather quickly. Now up to bat is Matt Fazzi, who fills his role perfectly, and blends so well its almost as if hes been secretly practicing with these guys for years. Fittingly, this first outing with Fazzi is titled New Again. The album was produced by David Kahne, who also produced such works as The Strokes' First Impressions Of Earth and Sublime's self titled album. All factual information aside, it's time for me to be daring: I like this album more than Tell All Your Friends. Maybe it's the fact that I was a mere 10 year old when TAYF was big? Could be. Most likely. Yeah. But after subjectively listening to TAYF multiple times after its peak, I am conclusive about this. Though I love its raw sound and John Nolan's vocals, there were just too many things I dislike about it, the main being the use of Head Club as the closer instead of the unreleased track, The Ballad Of Sal Villanueva. Had Ballad not existed, this wouldn't matter, because of Head Club's sheer power as a closer itself. The other, and I'm bound to break some hearts with this, being the first half of Ghost Man On Third. That's a story for another day though. But were being New Again, right?. The album is quite the departure from TAYF, due to the band's maturity both age-wise and musically. In a recent online interview with MTV, front man Adam Lazzara says, That first record, I was like 18. I'm no longer 18. As far as lyrically, as you grow, you come across a lot of different challenges, and writing like she hurt me! is just doing a big disservice to myself. And a big goal is to keep growing and changing. I don't understand why bands try to write the same album over and over. And they certainly avoided this sophomoric trend.
Lyrics — 7
Lyrically, New Again is Lazzara's most simplistic work. The lyrics are incredibly straightforward, save for a few metaphors here and there (The flower tongue wilts with too much sun from Lonely, Lonely), but they're some of the most honest lyrics he's done. However, the simplicity can sometimes drag songs down. In the rather lackluster drug lament Where My Mouth Is, he repeats the adage of I put my money where my mouth is a few too many times, and it also contains a snoozer chorus: Yeah I had it all, was sitting on top of the world, but I threw it away just to prove that I could. The album is littered with decent enough lines (Lover lover tell me this: passion over consequence, when did the latter take the lead? from Swing, a personal favorite) to keep lyric fiends fairly satisfied. Adam's vocals on New Again are some of the lowest they've ever been. He, for the most part, refrains from the higher, passionate vocals he's made us so accustomed to, and replaces them with the slightly more aggressive vocals reminiscent of songs like Twenty Twenty Surgery or What's It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?. This isn't to say his vocals aren't passionate, but he definitely shows glimpses that he can still sing like old Taking Back Sunday, and it's most apparent in the album's closer Everything Must Go. The song is one of the more personal songs they've written, and there's something in the way Lazzara shrieks in the bridge The love you had we couldn't leave, the past that we were stuck between, beside myself I start to think, Lord what have I done?', you know he's one hundred percent meaningful, and you know he's still got the ability. Not to mention he does his best Daryl Palumbo impression in the breakdown of Catholic Knees, which is bonus points.
Overall Impression — 8
New Again is one of those albums you may be reluctant to listen to, simply because of the band's ever-changing direction. The always evolving Taking Back Sunday does just that; change and evolve. This album, to me, is a step up from Louder Now, especially in the drum department, and is far more tightly produced, the sound being somewhat of a mix of WYWTB and LN. Where You Want To Be still ranks as my favorite Taking Back Sunday album, but this one is very very close behind, surpassing Tell All Your Friends and keeping Louder Now at the bottom of the totem pole. If Taking Back Sunday knows one thing, it's how to properly close an album. Whether it's the repeated Don't call my name out your window, I'm leaving of Head Club, (I know I gave that song some flak for not being my closer of choice, it's still a damn good one in it's own right), the chant of Tonight won't make a difference of Slowdance On the Inside, the swirling noise build in I'll Let You Live, or the sheer passion in Everything Must Go, each album comes to quite the conclusion. Key tracks like Cut Me Up Jenny, Lonely, Lonely, Carpathia, and Everything Must Go make for an extremely enjoyable album with tons of longevity, and allows for multiple plays through (thanks, last.fm). New Agai marks a new era of Taking Back Sunday, one you may love or hate, but one you have to appreciate. They've been daring enough to try and change with each album they put out, and have succeeded yet again.