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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TBS: New Again

"Tuned Into Pop Culture" guest contributor Nick Carrabine is a News-Herald staff writer.

“I am, I’m ready to be new again. I’m ready to hear you say who I am is quite enough.”

Those are the words uttered by Taking Back Sunday front-man Adam Lazarra on the title track of their new album “New Again,” released today.

A new album, a new band member, a new sound, the band really is new again.

Easily my favorite band since 2002, TBS in the past seven years has evolved from an underground rugged and raw punk band into a successful mainstream rock/alternative band.

The band’s first three albums (“Tell All Your Friends,” “Where You Want To Be,” and “Louder Now”) have all sold at least 500,000 copies (which isn’t an easy feat when two of those were on independent record labels). Each of their last two albums debuted in top three spots on the billboard charts. They’ve toured with Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Jimmy Eat World and this summer they’ll tour with Blink-182 and Weezer (Sept. 2 at Blossom). They’ve made appearances on Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien. Their songs are set to appear on the next version of the popular video game “Guitar Hero.”

Despite all the success, it hasn’t been an easy road for TBS. Guitarist and back-up vocalist, John Nolan and guitarist Shaun Cooper left the group in 2003 as the band was on the rise to fame which led to nearly a year-long break-up. Nolan and Cooper went on to form the piano-rock band Straylight Run while TBS reformed in 2004. In 2007, Nolan’s replacement Fred Mascherino, bolted the band to create The Color Fred.

On top of the break-ups, they’ve also had some riffs with other bands, most notably Brand New (who is also a phenomenal band). Lazarra and Jesse Lacey, front-man of Brand New, have been trading blows at each other on many of their songs throughout all of their albums. What happened between the two isn’t fully known, It is also completely obvious through lyrics from both TBS and Straylight Run that Lazarra and Nolan/Cooper are no longer fond of each other as Lazarra sings “I had a better friend in my worst of plans than I ever had in either one of you.” referring to both Nolan and Cooper on “The Union” which can be heard on the 2004 album, “Where You Want To Be.” On the new record, Lazarra addresses the departure of Mascherino on “Capital M-E.”

“The nicest man I ever met/Was more malicious than malcontent/Yeah, he taught me how to hold my tongue/And wait to strike till their backs were turned/And you slither away like the snake that you are.”

Despite the issues, TBS is back with their first release in more than three years. It’s been a long wait. I’ve accepted the fact a long time ago they’ll never return to the sound of their 2002 debut album “Tell All Your Friends,” which piled in energy, pure raw emotion and some of the catchiest sing-alongs on 10 tracks that can be put on record.

Their new single, “Sink into Me,” which I immediately labeled one of the worst TBS songs I’ve ever heard upon first listen, has now been in my head for the past week and I can’t get it out.

“New Again” is definitely a new sound for the band, who have been traveling in a different direction musically throughout their past two releases. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it really doesn’t come close to “Tell All Your Friends” and it’s notches below “Where You Want To Be” and “Louder Now.”

My complaint is, and this may sound weird because he is the lead singer, there is actually too much Lazarra on this album. Although his voice sounds better on “New Again” than any of the others, the band is at its best when Lazarra is constantly trading vocals back and fourth with Nolan/Mascherino throughout each song. Matt Fazzi, who is the new Nolan/Mascherino — if you will — doesn’t provide much, if any, vocals on the album and the songs come off as more traditional rather than the creative song writing the band used to display in its earlier days.

Having that said, Lazarra is more personal on this album as the band’s past songs were pretty much open to interpretation. At least two songs (“Carpathia,” and “Everything Must Go”) are blatantly about his ex-fiance and on “Where My Mouth Is” he takes responsibility for breaking up the band in 2003 and comes the closest he probably will to apologizing to Nolan and Cooper.

“I lost not one but two friends/Yeah I had it all/Sitting on top of the world/But I threw it away/Just to prove that I could/I put my money where my mouth is.”

The album is produced by David Kahne, who has produced albums for Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Sublime, Stevie Nicks and Kelly Clarkson.

As I previously mentioned, “New Again” doesn’t top any of the work the band has accomplished on their three prior records, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of either.

I’m just glad I have new TBS music to listen to.

Hit: “Swing” "Where My Mouth Is" “Carpathia
Miss: “Lonely, Lonely”


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