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 411mania » Music » Album Reviews

Taking Back Sunday - Happiness Is Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 03.18.2014


My 2014 Reviews:
In chronological order

Ed Harcourt - Time of Dust EP [8.0] // Warpaint - Warpaint [9.0] // Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues [7.0] // Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Wanderlust [9.0] // Mogwai - Raves Tapes [4.0] // Young the Giant - Mind Over Matter [6.0] // You Me At Six - Cavalier Youth [5.5] // Gaslight Anthem - The B-Sides [6.5] // Of Mice and Men - Restoring Force [8.0] // Within Temptation - Hyrda [8.5] // Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow [8.0] // The Rifles - None the Wiser [5.0] // Skindred - Kill the Power [7.0] // Katy B - Little Red [9.0] // The Family Rain - Under the Volcano [7.0] // Clare Maguire - Clare Maguire EP [7.0] // Behemoth - The Satanist [7.0] // Wild Beasts - Present Tense [10.0] // Beck - Morning Phase [9.5] // Issues - Issues [7.0] // Fanfarlo - Let's Get Extinct [4.0] // The Chain Gang of 1974 - Daydream Forever [3.5] // Indica - Shine [5.0] // Grand Magus - Triumph and Power [6.0] // Nina Nesbitt - Peroxide [9.0] // ††† (Crosses) - ††† (Crosses) [6.5] // Schoolboy Q - Oxymoron [8.0] // Pharrell Williams - G I R L [7.0] // Silversun Pickups - The Singles Collection [8.0] // The Fray - Helios [4.0] // Kid Cudi - Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon [9.0] // Pharrell Williams - G I R L [7.0] // We Are Scientists - TV En Francais [6.5] // Major Lazer - Apocalypse Soon [2.0] // Rick Ross - Mastermind [7.5] // Real Estate - Atlas [8.5] // Comeback Kid - Die Knowing [7.0] // Reverend and the Makers ThirtyTwo [8.5] // Broken Bells - After the Disco [6.0] // Blood Red Shoes - Blood Red Shoes [5.5] // Metronomy - Love Letters [9.0] // Architects - Lose Forever // Lost Together [6.0] // Elbow - The Take Off and Landing of Everything [6.5] // Kamchatka - The Search Goes On [8.0]

Taking Back Sunday is:
Adam Lazzara – vocals
John Nolan – guitar
Eddie Reyes – rhythm guitar
Shaun Cooper – bass
Mark O'Connell – drums

Taking Back SundayHappiness Is

Track listing:
1. Preface
2. Flicker, Fade
3. Stood a Chance
4. All the Way
5. Beat Up Car
6. It Takes More
7. They Don't Have Any Friends
8. Better Homes and Gardens
9. Like You Do
10. We Were Younger Then
11. Nothing At All
Running time: 40:58

Taking Back Sunday as a band is something of an oddity. They were reasonably popular during the boom period of what people described as the “emo” scene, when bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance were a threat to our mainstream music charts and our children's well-being alike. Taking Back Sunday was a fairly no-frills outfit with a standard output of hook-laden rock music that generally drew a positive response from the majority of music critics, even the posh and the snobby ones. Despite a number of line up changes that has actually left them back with pretty much the original line up, the band has produced a steady output of material for a decade and a half now, while former contemporaries have fallen by the wayside or simply faded into obscurity. Happiness Is is album number six, and the follow up to 2011's eponymous offering, and a chance to examine whether this kind of music still holds weight when the majority has probably moved on.

Happiness Is is the third album to feature what fans would deem the “classic line up,” following the return of John Nolan and Shaun Cooper prior to the recording of the aforementioned self-titled effort. It comes as no surprise that the band doesn't really take any risks with this one, because that's not what they do. The band has a niche sound and it's one that their fan base is both familiar and comfortable with. If anything, Happiness Is is closer to 2002's Tell All Your Friends, the first album that this line up created, than it is to a progression in terms of musical style. What you will find here is plenty of anthemic rock hell-raisers, some pretty impressive vocal hooks and a smattering of middle of the road ballads. Taking Back Sunday was never likely to attempt to reinvent the wheel with album number six, but then again when you're able to create belting singles like “Flicker, Fade,” why would you want to change tactics? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Indeed, the closest thing resembling a more inspiring Taking Back Sunday is the soaring violins that punctuate the intro “Preface,” a bizarre commencement to the album that toys with orchestral soundscapes before ending abruptly as lead single “Flicker, Fade” takes over. “Flicker, Fade” is an ideal choice for a lead single. It doesn't particularly demand that you pay close attention, because lyrically it's got the depth of a fashion show, but the chorus is going to hold your interest whether you like it or not. It starts off with pleasant enough vocals surrounded by pounding drums and an acoustic guitar before launching into that infectious chorus time and time again. It's as loud and as brash as previous lead singles like “Make Damn Sure” and it serves it's purpose as a rambunctious proper start to the record. Indeed, at every turn the album is brimming with an unrestrained energy that occasionally it wouldn't hurt to rein in, but more often than not the results are powerful, emotional outbursts of raging guitars and frantic drumming. Once again, the duel vocals of Lazzara and Nolan are heavily featured throughout, and they compliment each other rather well but there's no denying that Lazzara has a raw, untapped energy source somewhere in his lungs.

As top-heavy as the record is with adrenaline-fuelled anthems, arguably the highlights of Happiness Is come when the band take a step back and adopt a more restrained approach. “All the Way” isn't quite a ballad, but it's significantly more mellow than your average Taking Back Sunday number, and it's well-written to boot. “When We Were Younger” and “Nothing At All” are both down-tempo numbers that finish the record off on a delicate vibe, but the crest of this record's many waves is surely “Better Homes and Gardens,” a measured telling of an impending divorce with themes of regret, anger and eventually acceptance. Lyrically it's one of many accomplished offerings here. The band asks the question Happiness Is and answers it with this track as Lazzara screams wildly, “you'll never be happy.” Like the protagonist in the song, the band seems to have realised that throughout the line up changes, the scene moving on, and fans clamouring for the days of their earlier records, they'll never be able to please everybody. Even they themselves had a dislike for 2009's New Again. So Taking Back Sunday has decided the simplest course to take is to embrace the formula with which they are both comfortable and accomplished, hence Happiness Is is jam-packed with upbeat pop-rock anthems and reflective cuts of radio-friendly angst that should appease fans new and old alike. Most of 'em anyway.

Taking Back Sunday - “Flicker, Fade”

The 411Happiness Is is exactly the record you would expect Taking Back Sunday to make in 2014. In the likes of “Flicker, Fade,” “Stood a Chance” and “Beat Up Car,” there's plenty of uplifting anthems that will have fists in the air throughout the touring of this new record. There's also a new found sharpness about the way the band delivers poignant lyrics on the more down-tempo numbers, including the record's powerful stand out, “Better Homes and Gardens.” There's skippable tracks here as well, and one or two that will leave no impression whatsoever, but the band is generally writing with a confidence that has grown over the last decade as the band comes to accept its place in today's music scene. Taking Back Sunday may not be part of a growing scene like it was ten years ago, but there's always going to be a place for this kind of thing. Happiness Is isn't the band's best album, but it is another solid additional to an already stellar back catalogue.
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend


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