Taking Back Sunday risks becoming another generic alt rock group.
Fourteen years ago, Taking Back Sunday released Tell All Your Friends, an album that would go on to become a modern classic amongst emo devotees. The band’s debut was a mixed bag of emotional anthems and energetic, vengeful tracks. It wasn’t the band’s most ambitious work, but it continues to be the album that best represents its brand. Taking Back Sunday has since tried to shake the emo label, with limited success. On Tidal Wave, its seventh album, it may have finally shaken the title for good.
Tidal Wave departs from the past and embraces it all in the same breath. Stylistically, Taking Back Sunday is far removed from its days of yelling over an aggressive beat about girls with guns. The new album is less confrontational, more reflective, less unsure, and more confident. While the band once loudly voiced its concerns about the future, now it quietly considers the repercussions of the past. It’s sad as hell, but it’s not emo.
The album opens with “Death Wolf,” a high-energy alternative rock ode to yearning. Adam Lazzara sings of a romantic relationship, setting the tone of the rest of the album: “I thought I had enough but now I’m not sure/ I had a little bit and now I want some more.” Each song on Tidal Wave looks to the past, dissecting and analyzing at every turn. Rather than questioning the universe, its own motives or even some higher power, as the band has done in the past, the songs seem to come after the inquisition is finished.
Lazzara sings of the inevitability of time on “You Can’t Look Back” and his true love for a woman on “Holy Water.” He gets his message across plainly with no loud effects or obscure lyrics, just Lazzara’s voice over a clean, melodic track. Nothing sounds overproduced or inorganic, the true mark of a band that has made it through the scene and back out again.
While Tidal Wave is a solid record, with heartfelt songs like “I Felt it Too,” there are a few speed bumps. “All Excess” seems like monotonous filler that says nothing and doesn’t even say it in a catchy way. The band’s lyrics sometimes come off as too general: “Call Come Running” is an ear worm, but it could have been written by any other indie rock band, and doesn’t show any of the personal touch that we want from Taking Back Sunday.
Tidal Wave is the third album since Taking Back Sunday has restored its original lineup, yet it still feels like a transitional work. The band is trying new things and taking the time to craft thoughtful songs that work well together, but can hold their own. Just as Taking Back Sunday has figured out how to put away its emo past, it risks becoming another generic alt rock group. Yet the band clearly has more to say, and its fan base eagerly awaits its further evolution.