Album review: Taking Back Sunday – 152

Taking Back Sunday return after seven years with their eighth – and possibly best – album.

Album review: Taking Back Sunday – 152
Mischa Pearlman

In some ways, Taking Back Sunday have been running away from themselves ever since their first album, Tell All Your Friends, came out in 2002. Or rather, running from being the band everyone wanted them to be. You know – the broken-hearted emo act whose songs were drenched in the bile of self-regret and whose existence had been whittled down to a couple of crazy sing-alongs at emo nights the world over.

Over the course of the next six albums – from 2004’s Where You Want To Be through to 2016’s Tidal Wave – TBS would always try to show they had more to offer than just conforming to the pigeonhole they’d inadvertently been forced into. That last record was their most overt attempt to outrun the scene and prove they weren’t beholden to it – a bona fide rock record with only a few traces of the band they used to be.

Now, seven years later, 152 serves as the perfect bridge between past and present. Across its 10 stunning songs, Adam Lazzara, John Nolan, Mark O’Connell and Shaun Cooper – four of the five members who made that first record – both reassert and reinvent themselves.

It makes sense. 152 is a number with special importance – it’s a stretch of North Carolina highway where the band and their friends would meet up as teenagers – and one featured somewhere on every album cover to date. As such, it both signifies a return to their roots and a continuation of their journey, all the miles travelled as well as all those still left to go. That’s represented perfectly in the first two songs – the quiet, world-weary wistfulness of opener Amphetamine Smiles, which is as resplendent with hope as it is resignation – and the jittery energy of S’old, which celebrates and pontificates on the passing of time while still awash with youthful vitality.

That’s a contradiction that makes itself known through this album, both musically and lyrically. Whether it’s the breakneck urgency of Keep Going, the knowing reminiscences that riddle the defiant chug of The One (a song that, musically, almost sounds like There’s No ‘I’ In Team if it had been written now), or the epic, pop-oriented production of I Am The Only One Who Knows You and Quit Trying, this is an album that successfully reconciles the distance between what was and what is, keeping the past well and truly alive within the present. It’s surely, then, no coincidence that Lightbringer seems to pay homage to Don Henley’s classic The Boys Of Summer, or that final track The Stranger sounds like every iteration of Taking Back Sunday that has existed to date wrapped up in three minutes and 15 seconds of electrifying, emotional catharsis.

Twenty-one years after Tell All Your Friends put Taking Back Sunday on the map, 152 is a stunning set of songs that truly defies the band’s age, as much as it’s been informed and inspired by all the years in between. Whisper it, but it might just be the best album of their career…

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: The Wonder Years, Don Henley, Against Me!

152 is released October 27 via Fantasy Records – get your signed CD now

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