Taking Back Sunday - Taking Back Sunday (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday (2011)

Warner Bros.

Taking Back Sunday marks the return of guitarist/vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper to the band of the same name. Self-titling the album was a bold move, and feels like a symbolic gesture on their part. It is the first album in nine years from what many consider the band's "classic" lineup (although this reviewer personally feels the band has only gotten better since then). Even though this particular group of musicians hasn't recorded an album together in quite some time, they sound like a well-oiled machine here, and have created arguably the best album of their career thus far.

Things kick off with a bang in "El Paso", bar none the heaviest song the band has ever recorded. With chugging guitars, a Nirvana-esque bassline, and throat-shredding screams from both Nolan and lead vocalist Adam Lazzara, it feels akin to what the group's friends/rivals/contemporaries in Brand New did with 2009's "Vices". Indeed, many of the album's tracks, such as "Faith (When I Let You Down)" and "It Doesn't Feel a Thing Like Falling" have a more muscular rock sound than we've heard from the band before. The band has been headed in this direction since 2006's Louder Now, but this is the best they've ever been at it.

Album centerpiece "This Is All Now" is a huge highlight, with a reggae-esque drumbeat and some busy guitar work from Nolan, that features perhaps the catchiest chorus the band has written. If released as a single, it should sit quite comfortably on rock radio next to Weezer and Foo Fighters.

"Who Are You Anyway" doesn't fare quite as well. It feels like two entirely different songs spliced together. Two pretty decent songs at least, but the transitions are a little shaky.

Somewhat surprisingly, Adam Lazzara's lyrics are one of the album's strongest suits, with couplets like "I know you mean well with your ancient code of ethics. / Lead by example, could you imagine Christ hitting a child?" from the aforementioned "This Is All Now", and "Skin against skin, covering bone. / The body you're in is aggressively slim. / You earned the clothes you put on it / to cover up where you've been" from "Sad Savior". It's clear he's come a long way since the days of "I got the mic and you got the moshpit."

With the buzz of this lineup's reunion still lingering, it would have been easy to make Tell All Your Friends Part 2. The fact remains that these men are in their 30s now. Trying to rehash the high school melodrama of Tell All Your Friends would have been embarrassing. Kudos to Taking Back Sunday for not taking the easy way out. They've created an exciting, challenging album that feels like a new beginning and a culmination of prior work all at once.