The return of original band members John Nolan and Shaun Cooper from their stint as Straylight Run was a big shock back before 2011’s self-titled album, but the media hype overshadowed the actual quality of the album – an outcome that Taking Back Sunday would have favoured. The classic ‘Tell Your Friends’ line-up are at it together again for TBS‘s sixth full-length, ‘Happiness Is’, but have they recreated the magic of the music we heard over ten years ago?
Nevermind surpassing, it’s difficult to even equal the success of a groundbreaking or genre-defining album, as TBS must get reminded on a regular basis. The creativeness of the band’s early work is really something to behold, but it’s impossible to maintain ingenuity like that every time you pen a song.
‘Happiness Is’ takes a step away from the structured routine that we’ve heard the band play before and simply concentrates on catchy alternative rock tracks with slight nods to their trademark clever layered vocals, as heard in ‘They Don’t Have Any Friends’ and big single, ‘Stood A Chance’. The latter is the most exciting and impressive track we’ve heard since ‘Louder Now’ and, surprisingly, has an upbeat demeanour. Warning: this will be all over your rock TV and radio stations this year.
When TBS slow songs down, it gives Adam Lazzara the opportunity to show off his impressive vocals, one of the greatest strengths in the alternative genre. ‘All The Way’ is powerful yet smooth and relaxing, while ‘Better Homes And Gardens’ has the prolific singer passionately singing about the pain of divorce with emotionally strong lines “You’ll never be happy” and “It was all for nothing” securing it as an album highlight.
If you’ve caught the band on tour lately, you’ll be familiar with ‘Beat Up Car’ and, with the quality of the recorded version, it’s no wonder they wanted to unleash it live before the album dropped. Probably the most similar to their early days, the bridge combines joint vocals with a plucked guitar to produce a crescendo all the way to the climax, before an effortless and effective abrupt stop leaves Lazzara singing all alone.
This is certainly a return to form for the Long Island band; coming off the back of two lacklustre albums, they’ve managed to reanimate themselves with more substance and consistency throughout the 40 minutes of ‘Happiness Is’. Whether it’s lead single ‘Flicker, Fade’ that has you bellowing along, or acoustic ballad ‘Nothing At All’ sending shivers down your spine, it’s certainly pleasing to see Taking Back Sunday back on the path they discovered all those years ago.
Written by Michael Heath