Almost two years after parting ways with guitarist/singer Fred Mascherino over creative differences, alt/indie-band Taking Back Sunday has re-grouped, re-structured, and re-invented itself in the form of their fourth studio album, New Again. With a new line-up that includes Matt Fazzi on guitar/vocals and bassist Matt Rubano now rounding out the band’s three-part harmonies, TBS has truly created something new with their latest release. New Again is a masterfully orchestrated combination of melodic hooks and intricate riffs that demonstrates just how far TBS have really come. After all, it’s been more than seven years since the release of the bands first full-length album, “Tell All Your Friends,” and without fail, every record since then has been an improvement on the one before.
As the title suggests, New Again is a slight departure for TBS. Producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor) left a huge mark on New, via strategically placed riffs and polished vocals that seem to take the band in a more subdued direction. But while some fans would argue the edginess they fell in love with has been sacrificed, the fact of the matter is, the new sound fits Taking Back Sunday like a glove. Thanks to a slightly more mature sound, Lazzara and company can tell more mature stories in more complex ways, and they pull it off without a hitch. Tracks like “Summer, Man” and “Swing” tell tales of adulthood, while “Catholic Knees” looks back in time with a new found understanding.
No doubt a result of Mascherino’s departure, New Again is also riddled with themes of change, more specifically of relationships ending. The opening and title track, finds singer Adam Lazzara questioning, “what are we to do with you?” just before proclaiming he’s “ready to be new again,” while the explosive closer, “Everything Must Go” illustrates the moment when a relationship can no longer move forward as it is. On the verse Lazzara sings, “We found a house with a yard/And moved all of my things in/And most of your things in/And honey I was proud of it.” And then screams the bridge, “But so much stuff must go tonight/Oh Lord, what have I done?” It’s an almost haunting track that fades out without notice, leaving the listener wanting more, and wondering if the album really just ended.
Other tracks from the same thread include, “Where My Mouth Is” which gives off an extremely regretful, almost bittersweet air, and “Lonely, Lonely”. On the chorus of “Mouth” Lazzara wails, “I had it all/sittin’ on top of the world/but I threw it away/jut to prove that I could.” It’s a song that will speak to the bands less aggressive fans that congregated around, “New American Classic” or “My Blue Heaven” on previous records.
Luckily for hardcore fans, not everything on New Again is of a softer variety. Lead single, “Sink Into Me” is reminiscent of tunes like “Bonus Mosh Pt. II,” and “The Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know),” and the aggressive, “Cut Me Up Jenny” sounds more like Tell All Your Friends than perhaps it should. Nonetheless, the sexy undertones, and quirky beats on such tracks are what make New Again refreshingly old school for TBS fans.
The one thing missing from New Again is, of course, Mascherino’s vocal. After being part of the band for so long, it’s only natural that new releases would seem to be lacking without him. Yes, New Again is missing a bit of that classic TBS edge, but who’s to say it wouldn’t have worn away with time anyway? Even without the extra oomph, Taking Back Sunday has pulled off another amazing record for the masses to enjoy.
Over the years, Taking Back Sunday have grown from angst-ridden, punk-inspired teens to genre-defining men, meanwhile creating a sound that has remained unmatched. With New Again, Taking Back Sunday proves there’s nothing it cannot overcome, and while some might argue a shinier sound means a change in attitude, there’s still plenty of signature TBS gusto present. Thanks to New Again, Taking Back Sunday has only further solidified its place at the top of the alt/rock totem pole.