Album Review: Taking Back Sunday – Twenty
It couldn’t really begin any other way – those few slow chords and the bitter, broken-hearted rush of emotion that builds and builds throughout Cute Without The ‘E’ (Cut From The Team). Taken from the band’s Tell All Your Friends 2002 debut, it remains Taking Back Sunday’s calling card, the song that helped define a generation of emo fans, and one that’s still a cornerstone 17 years after it came out. As we say, in terms of kicking off a career retrospective of one of ‘00s emo’s most important bands, you couldn’t do it any other way.
The overwrought passion – lyrically, musically and in terms of vocal delivery – isn’t unique to that song, of course. ‘The truth is you could slit my throat / And with my one last gasping breath / I’d apologise for bleeding on your shirt,’ sings Adam Lazzara on You’re So Last Summer, and despite its melodramatic overtures, you also believe him. A Decade Under The Influence and Set Phasers To Stun, both from second album Where You Want To Be, are equally heart-on-sleeve and intense, while tracks from their Louder Now breakthrough – especially the more muscular overtones of MakeDamnSure and What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost? – swell with TBS’ trademark mix of energetic confidence and thematic vulnerability.
Yet as the tracklisting and years of this retrospective – which celebrates 20 years of the Long Island band’s existence and features tracks from all seven of their studio albums – march on in chronological order, it’s patently obvious how Taking Back Sunday have always been developing musically and moving away from the emo tag. Everything Must Go, the closing track of 2009’s New Again, reveals a band making a transition to a different sound; grander in scope, but no less genuine.
That’s true, too, of Faith (When I Let You Down); Flicker, Fade; and Better Homes And Gardens, all songs that retain the spirit of the band’s early angst but with the added wisdom, maturity and melancholy – albeit one that’s more resigned than angry – that comes with age. The two new songs, meanwhile, show that TBS are still evolving. All Ready To Go is a spirited, boisterous anthem full of nuance, while A Song For Dan is a tender, piano-led ballad that leaves the door wide open for what comes next.
As such, Twenty serves as a phenomenal mile-marker for both the past and present, and shows off just what a phenomenal and important band Taking Back Sunday were, are, and will continue to be.
Words: Mischa Pearlman