Album Review: Taking Back Sunday – “Happiness Is”

Taking Back Sunday are one of those bands that will never live down the hype of their first two records. The Used, Thursday and Funeral for a Friend are some that fell into the same trap. It’s not that these bands put out music that tanked after the waves of acclaim but it’s the fact that comparison will always be made to the past when one decides to explore and spread their wings. These bands shifted musical gears a bit, got experimental and minced most of what made their old sound standout but it’s safe to say, whatever ensued, never sucked. It just really couldn’t touch the old days. TBS falls into that category and no matter how good their recent material is, and it does hold true to them, things just won’t match up to the olden. Happiness Is┬áis worthwhile and an all-round justifiable of pick-up at day’s end but differs greatly in the sense that it’s an older unit sharing more profound experiences which doesn’t fit the punk mold of the 90s and 2000s.

‘Flicker, Fade” was the first song I caught wind of and it shocked me that it wasn’t the album’s closer. TBS albums usually draw the curtains on songs with big sprawls, huge choruses and a spacious anthemic-rock feel which match Adam Lazzara’s bellowing vocals. This song is just that. Expansive and endearing in its distortion. It’s their typical massive, alternative pop-punk crescendo fitting of a finale. And it does come off as the contemplative closer they usually spout so as to signify by record’s end how mature they’ve become. It’s introspective, radio-friendly and quite catchy to boot. Lazzara’s voice seems a bit worn and torn recently but here, while not totally polished, he works the gruffness and derision into traces of his golden years.

With the original lineup reunited, there’s always hope for that magic as well. But, this record is a clear indication that they want to move forward and not look back. John Nolan spruces things up in doses and while he’s not overly loud as in his earlier days, this doesn’t significantly diminish their job. In fact, Fred Mascherino fans may like this more than they first thought. They’re quippy and pop-punkish as can be on “Stood A Chance” but diverge through the record’s spine with a more melodic stream as “It Takes More” shows. “Better Homes and Gardens” continues in their light-hearted yet heart-breaking tone which feels like a sequel to 2009’s “Everything Must Go”. More mid-tempo and foot-tapping.

Themes of failed romance, regret and lost love come abound more than anything on this record. “Nothing At All” surprises as a closer with its acoustic vibe and sprinkles of Nolan creating a soothing atmosphere. The album is a brave attempt to touch on every aspect of what made them TBS while also scraping new elements and playing off older influences from each album. It’s not close to their debut two oldies and it pans out more like New Again, but that doesn’t take away from its quality. It’s poetry in motion. It’s a mature diary indeed. One that’s grasping your hand, clasping it tightly and then tugging at your heartstrings. It’s their most honest, lay-it-bare, passionate and raw output to date. And this is one record where toning back the punk worked pretty well.

4/5 Stars – Give it a listen below.

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