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Victory Records
1) Set Phasers To Stun
2) Bonus Mosh Pt. II
3) A Decade Under The Influence
4) This Photograph Is Proof
(I Know You Know)
5) The Union
6) New American Classic
7) I Am Fred Astaire
8) One-Eighty By Summer
9) Number Five With A Bullet
<< 10) Little Devotional >>
...Slowdance On The Inside
Buy This Album
Band Website
       Taking Back Sunday's debut release on Victory Records, Tell All Your Friends, was a masterpiece. I promise you that there is no single person with good taste living within this plane of existence who will suggest otherwise. Emokids everywhere fell in love with the Long Island quintet's epitomization of everything they'd ever dyed their hair black for--Taking Back Sunday sang of heartbreak and betrayal with such eloquence that you very well might find yourself listening to the 2002 release wishing you had a "lush" ex-girlfriend to hate. The band's lyrical abilities dropped our jaws, a feat that could have been achieved if the only words they ever penned were those found in the song "You're So Last Summer" reading, "The truth... is you could slit my throat, and with my one last gasping breath, I'd apologize for bleeding on your shirt."
         The band had a cult following. Catchy yet angsty, we fell in love with Taking Back Sunday. Then that fateful day came--you know the one I'm talking about. The day guitarist/vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper left the band abruptly, devastating fans worldwide. Our world would have remained in shambles had the band Straylight Run not been formed; the new project involving both Nolan and Cooper, Straylight Run made life worth living again, reassuring us that good things would bloom from the bad.
         But what of Taking Back Sunday? Fans everywhere bit their lips anxiously, wondering what the band would be like now that the change in line-up had taken place. The first impression we got of the new Taking Back Sunday came from a rough live version of "Bonus Mosh Pt. II," which did not seem to be a very good sign of the band's music to come. Badly mixed and with some of the worst vocalwork I'd heard, I became pessimistic toward the band's future and came very close to writing the band off as dead without John Nolan's backing vocalwork.
         Then the band released news of its plans to release its new album,
Where You Want To Be. This would be the first full-length in over two years from the band. When the song "A Decade Under The Influence" became available to hear as a prelude to the rest of the songs on the album, it breathed hope into my heart and told me that it was all going to be okay. The song was everything Taking Back Sunday was supposed to be--just poppy enough, just angry enough, and with layer after layer of irresistable catchy lines like "I got a bad feeling about this... I got a bad feeling about this." There was now new optimism for the rest of the album.
         So here was this album, complete with naked baby coverart. The nude toddler temporarily weirded me out, but then I figured, hey, Nirvana had good luck with naked babies, and I took it to be yet another good omen. The first track is titled "Set Phasers To Stun." Okay, it'd be a bit of a trick to find a way to call references to Star Trek a good omen. All the same, I closed by eyes and hit the Play button. The opening chords were right there, and I was tapping my foot already. Then, the first full lyrics: "I'm sorry it took me so long... I'm sorry it took me so long." If Adam was apologizing for taking two bloody years to give me this album, then he's forgiven--it's well worth the wait.
         This song reinstates all the faith we had in Taking Back Sunday. Just like the line in "Cute Without The 'E'" asking, "So will you tell all your friends...?", "Set Phasers To Stun" contains the lyrics "It's where you want to be," keeping up the tradition of album titles embedded within the words of the songs. This song tells you right from the start that the album is definitely worthy of the group.
         The album version of "Bonus Mosh Pt. II" is next. How about that--the song doesn't suck. Never underestimate the benefits of proper mixing. While the song's topic of a painful love is nothing we haven't heard, Taking Back Sunday manages to keep us interested. Track three is another song we've already heard--the prereleased "A Decade Under The Influence." This is the song where we must face the somewhat guilty truth: Matthew Rubano, the musician replacing Shaun Cooper, is a better bassist than the man he is replacing. The basslines are subtle and yet add so much that any changes would have a serious impact on the songs.
         Somehow I'm going to resist discussing every track in detail, but I'll be quick and say that tracks four and five don't fall even slightly short of the bar that has been set for the album. "New American Classic," however, opens with a surprise--acoustic guitarwork. If you heard either "Your Own Disaster" or the acoustic version of "Cute Without The 'E'," you know the band writes surprisingly fantastic unplugged songs, but somehow the presence of gentle acoustic arpeggios backed up by string orchestra instruments is enchantingly new. Taking Back Sunday has gone from making us furious at some ambiguous ex-girlfriend to soothing our hearts and tempting us to lie down and take a nap right on the spot.
         Well... while Lucky Boys Confusion never got to be my Fred Astaire, Taking Back Sunday apparently pulled it off on track seven. Re-energizing us after the lullaby we'd just heard, the song's chorus is every bit as good as something you'd hear on Tell All Your Friends. "One-Eighty By Summer" is also geniusly composed, though the guitarwork doesn't quite match the vocals at rare times.
         "Number Five With A Bullet" is one of the most instantly addictive songs on the album. Frustrated and cynical, everything from the verses to the chorus to the guitar and bass is beautifully sculpted into one fantastic track. "Little Devotional" somehow manages to hold its own following it, and by this point the album has lived up to all our expectations and more. The final track, "...Slowdance On The Inside," contains more cello and a mellower introduction before rocking out gently yet powerfully on the chorus, proclaiming beautifully, "I'm lying just to keep you here..." The final lyrics of the album, "Tonight won't make a difference," leave us with our eyes shut in awe and our hearts beating a bit faster.
         Is the album better than
Tell All Your Friends? Though I've already stated my belief that the basslines are a lot more impressive, John Nolan's absence is very apparent on this record. Fred definitely carries himself well as the replacement vocalist, keeping up the band's trademark vocal exchanges that give so much to each song, but there is no doubt that Nolan's lyrical contributions are missing. While each song can be listened to over and over with the same glorious effect, the album might take more than one full listen-through to get completely hooked on, as it is not quite as instantly fullfilling as Tell All Your Friends.
         But is the album worth buying? There is no doubt in my mind that it is. Each song shatters any worries you might have had about the band's new material. While there are no songs as likely to become a cult classic in the way that "Cute Without the 'E'" was,
Where You Want To Be is still a beautiful piece of musical art and should be snatched up the moment it hits the shelves.
R.S. '04