I used to write reviews of new records and music I bumped into on Facebook a while back (like 6-7 years ago), and since now I’m trying this new thing out I thought it would be a good idea to keep that tradition going and to kick off with something similar. You can think of this as some kind of 2.0 music review revival. I’d call this section, column, feature or whatever “Alex Reviews Music” – and I’ll probably shorten it to ARM – because it’s literally what I’ll be doing in it, no magic, persuasion, or tricks involved.
Obviously, as I don’t like to do things the standard way, I’m starting with a review of a very non-conventional record. In fact, Taking Back Sunday’s “Happiness Is: The Complete Recordings” it’s a so-called “deluxe version” of their sixth studio album released at the beginning of 2014, called “Happiness Is”. This new version contains the entire fruits of their recording process, i.e. including the outtakes that didn’t make the final cut of the album itself plus three additional acoustic renditions of album tracks, and comes in various formats ranging from simple digital to a limited edition 7″ box set with signed cover card as well as individual art for each song. Also, before we go any further, I assume it’s right to say that, because of a deep personal involvement with this band’s repertoire, I won’t be able to objectively assess the intrinsic musical value of this art piece without tending to a overwhelmingly positive judgement. Nonetheless, I’ll do my best to stay true to my apparently distant position I’m supposed to incorporate while writing for ARM.
While it’s worth acknowledging that the record itself has yet to be released (it’ll on 24th February), I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about both the standard 11-track sequence entailed in “Happiness Is” and the extra song that’s already been disclosed, namely “How I Met Your Mother” (by the way also the B-side of the main single “Flicker, Fade”: this is why folks were already able to listen to it last year).
Precisely the main hit single and de facto album opener “Flicker, Fade” makes the effort of quickly delivering a statement of where the album positions itself within the band’s catalogue. Playing with swinging moods of heavy punches in ya face (best heard immediately in the intro) and sweet harmonic but still melancholic verse/bridge takes, it best kicks off Taking Back Sunday’s latest album without any kinds of compromises. The following track, “Stood A Chance”, also a single and host of an extremely funny video, takes care of poppy-upbeat feelings in the listener juxtaposing them with rather darky connotations in the lyrics. Also, this song has probably the best bridge/breakdown the band has ever made, which in a way is very reminiscent of the one in “What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?” off of Louder Now (2006), which was leading this special chart until “Stood A Chance” came along (one can’t really miss the similar ambience). The next pair of tracks, “All The Way” and “Beat Up Car”, simply summarises the finest moments of this album and demonstrate an incredible maturity on the part of the five-pieces outfit from Long Island. They’re both able to reach much depth both lyrically and melodically and show increased songwriting and performative ability by all of the five members, with special mentions for lead singer A. Lazzara and drummer M. O’Connell.
Further highpoints in the album are the punky and probably guitarist E. Reyes’s influenced “They Don’t Have Any Friends”, especially where the singing melody of the pre-chorus is simply irresistible, the very much direct and personal “Better Homes and Garden” – already a candidate to become a fan all-time favourite – and album closer “Nothing At All”, which showcases Taking Back Sunday at its most calm and introspective ever. Instead, not really convincing are the opening “Preface” (why not rather include “How I Met Your Mother” in the record replacing it with such a noisy and superficial introduction?, cf. below), the ballad-like “It Takes More”, a solid track but honestly nothing more than it and probably more at home in their fifth self-titled album (2011), as well as the rather dry “Like You Do” and “We Were Younger Then”, although these last two show increasing potential with augmented amounts of listening.
As promised, a last mention is well-owed to “How I Met Your Mother”, main tune “Flicker, Fade”‘s B-side and first of the bonus tracks entailed in the deluxe version. The song is unlike anything else the band’s released so far, in the sense that it really never leaves high-tension moods across the whole duration playing with a continuous climax and can be considered one of their heaviest efforts alongside with “El Paso” (off their self-titled). With once again drummer M. O’Connell at his top, retrospectively this track, if included in the standard album, could’ve covered the only minor omission of it: namely a real outrage of hard walls of distorted sound which goes hand in hand with fine melody as well as great harmonisations (the tunes in the album that get closest to reach this are probably “Beat Up Car” and “They Don’t Have Any Friends”). Needless to say, if the other two extra tracks included in the complete recordings version (“This Is Happening” and “Can You Feel That [Here I Am])” are on the same level of this one quality-wise, there is so much to be excited about them being released to the public. At that point, if these promises are to be maintained, the band’s sixth effort can literally be considered artistically complete.
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.
TAKING BACK SUNDAY
“HAPPINESS IS: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS”
2015, HOPELESS RECORDS, INC.