ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): TAKING BACK SUNDAY – “YOU CAN’T LOOK BACK” MUSIC VIDEO | 28th August, MMXVI

Watch the video first:

So last Tuesday my favourite band of all time Taking Back Sunday released a new single off their upcoming seventh studio album Tidal Wave (out on 16th September on Hopeless Records) titled “You Can’t Look Back”, which obviously got me overwhelmingly excited and all. Then, a couple of days and hundreds of plays later, I stumbled across a very funny and interesting article reminiscing about early Noughties punk-rock/emo nostalgia in which the author scrutinises frame-by-frame and with extreme meticulosity the band’s cult music video for fan-favourite track “You’re So Last Summer” released in late 2003. I immediately really liked the idea – less so the form and method used though – and hence thought to myself that, considering that thus far within my critically-acclaimed music review feature Alex Reviews Music I’ve only considered full records and or live shows, I might as well have a try myself at considering a music video as fundamental unit of my analysis. So here I am taking a closer look at the New York demo veterans’ latest single disguised as official music video (do they even still exist?!) directed by Anthem Films‘ DJay Brawner, also responsible for the band’s videos for Happiness Is‘s singles “Flicker, Fade” and “Better Homes and Gardens“. Yet, before I’d dug into any kind of reasoning or reflection and therefore somehow influence someone’s understanding of the track, I’d like you, my reader, to immerse yourself independently into the video hence why I copied it at the top of this page. Please do have a look at it before continuing reading if you’re interested in what I’m writing about.

The video starts off with a young man in a bright jeans jacket picking up a girl from what one understands might be her job place then driving off across desolated desert streets with a middle-range pick up truck. The couple then appears to be riding through unpaved streets before joining other friends at an outdoor party surrounding an impromptu fireplace on an empty clearing, all in an extremely joyous and intimate way. Nothing too spectacular so far. But more importantly, nothing that could somehow be misinterpreted or that is left hanging searching for meaning. This is when Taking Back Sunday themselves come into the game, as we find  – in order of appearance – lead guitarist John Nolan, drummer Mark O’Connell, singer Adam Lazzara, bassist Shaun Cooper and rhythm guitarist Eddie Reyes all already gathered around the festive rendezvous.

It is exactly from this point in time onwards that finding a common and indisputable meaning to the developments in the video, especially when paired with the enigmatic lyrics, becomes truly hard. That is, for example, as soon as the couple of leading actors joins the rest of the group I start noticing dark expressions and moderate discomfort on frontman Adam Lazzara’s expression, who in the end is the one not only writing but also singing the lyrics in question. This impression doesn’t fade with time as Adam incidentally remains the only one not pouring with joy and light heartedness even when the lead actors mix themselves up with the rest of their friends and everyone else seems to be having a good time. In fact, this theory appears to be confirmed from minute 2:47 onwards as an unexpected dramatic twist hits the so far linear and harmonic plot of the video, when Adam suddenly starts throwing up tons of blood from the depth of his stomach and searches his way through the crowd surrounding the fire, seemingly unaware of the whole thing.

Adam then starts to touch, approach and cover up other people with the dark blood coming out of his throat while every single one of them doesn’t bat an eye and keeps going on with what they’re doing. At one point, he then reaches for the lady who got picked up by the main character at the beginning of the video by touching her shoulder but even herself, albeit with a small and quick sign of awareness, ignores him altogether and keeps flirting with her fiancée. Adam then collapses on the floor suffering in pain and rolls on his sides while at the same time covering himself up with sand and everything else that’s on the ground, before walking away from the feast and the group of people on a small path, not without falling back down the hill and adding to the existing damage even more. The video ends with Adam reaching the young couple’s truck parked not far from the party starting its engine seemingly ready to leave.

I guess my overall interpretation of the music video depends greatly from a few lines of the song’s lyrics that to me seem to ornament and complement the actual development in the visual story line. These verses are “I’m not the same man / not since you came in”, “Still feel the same way / Still don’t know where I’m going”, “I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long” as well as “Don’t know how you did it other than you did / I was there beside myself in my own skin”. My takeaway from them is that the young lady who joined the party with her man at the beginning of the video is the one Adam is (metaphorically) referring to in the song and obviously played an important part in his life, most likely sentimentally. Then, as soon as she joins the game he starts losing control of himself and begins his physical downfall until he needs to leave the gathering altogether (“I’m not the same man / not since you came in”). Since he doesn’t seem able to explain such kind of reaction (“Don’t know how you did it other than you did”) he thus seeks time for himself and acquires ownership of one of the only things that could take him back to her later on, her fiancée’s car (“I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long”).

At heart, the track sounds to be about not being able of letting go of the past but at the same time convincing yourself that looking at the rearview mirror is only making things worse. As with all best songs, there’s much juxtaposition to be found and while for a great part it is a song about emotional weakness – not least when considered alongside its music video – after having listened to it one can’t help but feeling motivated to overcome said challenge and convincing themselves that moving forward in order to stop suffering about the past is not only an option but also the right one.

All in all, the beauty of art pieces is precisely that everyone is allowed the privilege of drawing different meanings and interpretations from them, sometimes very far off from what the creator first might have wanted to transmit, and this latest music video by Taking Back Sunday is probably no exception. I’ll leave you below with the complete lyrics for the song, perhaps they might help shed some clarity on its original meaning for the band and Adam most of all, looking back at how it all ties together with sounds and images. Or did we not just learn that we can’t look back?

[Verse 1]
I was living day to day
As the meetings they would suggest
Sitting pretty having one foot out that door
I didn’t know how to act
Started running and I didn’t look back
Still feel the same way
Still don’t know where I’m going
Oh, then you let me in
I don’t know how you did it other than you did

[Pre-Chorus]
You cut your wrist and said ‘come get you some’
It only works if you don’t look down
Bought the ticket, now you’re on the track
You can keep it but you can’t look back
You can keep it but you can’t look back
You can keep it but you can’t look back
You can keep it but you can’t look back

[Chorus]
I didn’t know what I was looking for
And come to think I wasn’t looking at all
I’m not the same man, not since you came in
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I’m not the same man, not since you came in
I’m going to get you if it take me all night
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long

[Verse 2]
I was nearly four states away
Mamma calling from the other end
Something about someday a woman’s gonna need you most the time
I didn’t know how to act
I started running and I didn’t look back
Still feel the same way
Still don’t know where I’m going
But now I’m in it until the bitter end
So if you’re gonna do me then you do me like that

[Pre-Chorus]

[Chorus]

[Bridge]

[Outro]
Don’t know how you did it other than you did
I was there beside myself in my own skin
Unfamiliar, I tried it on and liked the fit
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
I was there beside myself in my own skin
Unfamiliar, I tried it on and liked the fit
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
Don’t know how you did it other than you did
I was there beside myself in my own skin
Unfamiliar, I tried it on and liked the fit
I don’t know how you did it other than you did
Don’t know how you did it other than you did

I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.

AV

TBS_CantLookBack

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3 thoughts on “ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): TAKING BACK SUNDAY – “YOU CAN’T LOOK BACK” MUSIC VIDEO | 28th August, MMXVI

  1. I’ve come up with another theory. The song isn’t about a woman at all, rather substance abuse.
    The first two lines of the song say:
    “I was living day to day
    As the meetings they would suggest”
    Most AA or NA meetings use the mantra of “one day at a time”. He also references it being a meeting.

    “Sitting pretty having one foot out that door”
    He was half in half out, saving face basically. Everyone saw him there but he wasn’t fully in it.

    “I didn’t know how to act
    Started running and I didn’t look back
    Still feel the same way
    Still don’t know where I’m going”
    Self-explanatory really. Most addicts have a consistent feeling of not knowing where they’re going, even having that sense of being lost when in recovery.

    “Oh, then you let me in
    I don’t know how you did it other than you did”
    He was let into the world of substances. He doesn’t know how he got there

    “Cut your wrist and come get you some
    Only works if you don’t look down”
    Not entirely sure about this one. Second line could be referencing the high only being good if you think happy.

    “Bought the ticket, now you’re on the track
    You can keep it but you can’t look back”
    They’re now set on this new path and there’s no turning around, but they can have their memories.

    “I didn’t know what I was looking for
    And come to think I wasn’t looking at all
    I’m not the same man, not since you came in
    I’m going to get you if it takes me all night long”
    This chorus sounds cheerful but has a much darker undertone when you read it in the context of what the song is about. He has no concept of why he started and realizes he wasn’t looking for it in the first place. He’s forever changed and now has his cravings, anxious for that next fix.

    “I was nearly four states away
    Mamma calling from the other end
    Something about someday a woman’s gonna need you most the time”
    The concerned mother wanting her son to understand the consequences of his habits.

    “But now I’m in it until the bitter end
    So if you’re gonna do me then you do me like that”
    He’s forever stuck in the perpetual state of addiction, and if it’s from the stand point of recovery, he’s not giving up. He’s in it for the long haul and if addiction is going to haunt him, than so be it.

    “Don’t know how you did it other than you did
    I was there beside myself in my own skin
    Unfamiliar, I tried it on and liked the fit”
    He wasn’t himself. He was on the outside looking in as addiction took him over, and the second line states he tried it and liked it.

    In the video, he stumbles around the party, clearly crying out for help, but no one notices. He leaves bloody handprints on people, but not others, almost as if he’s marking those who stained him, the enablers or people who started him on this path of destruction. The people he didn’t leave a stain on are those who don’t see what he’s going through. This song in my opinion is about subastqnce abuse and still being addicted to it or his recovery from it and the struggle.

    Like

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