Taking Back Sunday – Tidal Wave
Taking Back Sunday: that name alone elicits nearly 15 years worth of incredible musical memories – from the first time I saw them back in 2002 in a converted barn in Upstate New York to the last, two years ago co-headlining with The Used. Throughout this time the band has never shied away from changing up their style or experimenting with new ways of crafting songs, and their latest album, Tidal Wave – out September 16th via Hopeless Records – is no exception.
Kicking things off with “Death Wolf”, the album begins with an ethereal, synthetic tone – a warning, a premonition perhaps, that what we are about to hear is “different”, that after 15 years frontman Adam Lazzara and Co. still have some new tricks up their collective sleeves. Before long the song transitions into the heavy guitars and driving drum and bass lines that we’ll hear for the remainder of much of the album – yet still, notice has been given. Moving on to the title track, “Tidal Wave”, we see a much different TBS than we’re used to (we wrote about its premiere back in June). Alongside the uptempo Americana-tinged backdrop we also get the first of many references to water throughout the album (more on this later).
Following that is “You Can’t Look Back”, also previously released, and brings us the first instance of old TBS and new sitting side by side. While the song itself is planted firmly in 2016, there is a line in the chorus that feels like a call back to TBS songs of the past; “I’m not the same man, not since you came in“, and while that’s followed by the refrain, “I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long“, the sentiment is different, the meaning altered, as if portraying an older and wiser narrator. And then there’s the video. (This is where you really need to watch the video, otherwise this isn’t going to make much sense). While straightforward for the first two-thirds, once we get to the bridge, something “happens” to our main character. The whole scene is very Sixth Sense-like, but tell me it doesn’t also remind you of one of the signature moments of “You’re So Last Summer” off their 2002 debut; the line, “the truth is you could slit my throat / And with my one last gasping breath I’d apologize for bleeding on your shirt“.
The album’s midpoint, the melodic “I Felt It Too”, brings the tempo and the mood down a few levels. The song serves both to reset our emotions and adrenaline, but also to prime us for the shot to the heart “Call Come Running” will deliver in it’s wake. While it eases us in slowly, it quickly ramps up, building to an absolute show-stopper of a guitar solo – will John Nolan or Eddie Reyes please step forward to collect your prize?
Tidal Wave winds down with three particularly noteworthy tracks. First, or rather, tenth, is “We Don’t Go In There”. Probably the darkest song on the album, it’s opening features a line so perfectly ripe for early TBS, “you make it seem so easy, lying through your teeth“. It’s not hard to imagine an angst-ridden sing-along through the chorus, “nobody knows, nobody cares / about the how and why and where / the devil’s in the details / and we don’t go in there“.
The penultimate, “Homecoming”, treats us yet again to a different Taking Back Sunday than we’ve seen thus far. With only a clean acoustic guitar and stripped-down rhythm section, this song puts the vocals and lyrics front and center. Part hopeful, part bittersweet, it’s the heart and soul of this album and the perfect accompaniment to the album’s heavier songs.
The closer “I’ll Find A Way To Make It What You Want” is where all these pieces come together, though in a purposefully jarring way. The song begins with what sounds like notes being played backwards, lending a mechanical eeriness to the composition – similar, yet different in just right amount, to the intro of “Death Wolf”. From there, while the vocals remain at the same level the music swells until it finally is a tidal wave of noise crashing our little corner of the universe before ultimately fading away into the sounds of actual waves; the water, soothing, sets us back down to begin again.
Tidal Wave excels when hitting the high-tempo rock and roll notes, but the understated “I Felt It Too” and “Homecoming” cannot be ignored. A lesser band, perhaps one with less experience or less confidence may have been tempted to release an album like this as an EP; only showcasing those four or five songs to introduce their listeners to a new style, a new way of thinking, before jumping in the pool head first. Make no mistake, Taking Back Sunday is not one of those bands. Tidal Wave is the fully-realized vision of Lazzara, Nolan, Reyes, Shaun Cooper (bass), and Mark O’Connell (drums), and in addition to being the band’s finest work in my opinion, it is one of the best rock albums of the year.
(Photo Credit: Ryan Russell)