Don’t fear another straight and plain ARM blogpost. I think I’ve done enough of them in the past months. I mean, just look at the last blogposts (although I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to tackle my temptations to just do another one considering the vast amount of cool releases happening in this pre-summerish period). This one certainly still deals with the magic of music, the mother of all arts, yet in a slightly unconventional and unlabelled form. Essentially, it tries to narrate and report what it felt like to watch my all time favorite rock and roll outfit, named Taking Back Sunday, two times in less than three days over the past weekend. Yes, that is all true, and kind of a great big deal for me, to be honest. Friday 22nd May I got to see them at tiny and intimate Rhythm Factory around Whitechapel, London, while the following Sunday I caught them from front row at alternative-rock/punk Slam Dunk Festival South in Hatfield, about half an hour train ride from central London. Two very different yet somehow connected and complementing experiences, which reminded me once again why this is the band I couldn’t really live without.

Having had seen them three times before this shocking one-two combo in three days, I guess I was at least a little bit pre-warned of what it would feel like having them standing a few metres away from me playing those very tunes that mean so freaking much to myself. Still, every single time their show somehow takes a new form and it transforms itself in a sort of unprecedented experience, at least as far as I’m concerned. Their gig at the Rhythm Factory, supported by new UK emo sensation Moose Blood, was literally surreal, not only because of the venue’s 200–300 people capacity (which of course automatically turns the show’s tangibility of an usual arena-band into something unlike all others), but also because of the true collegial atmosphere and the feelings of complicity that one could breathe by just standing somewhere in front of the narrow-mini stage. Also, the temperature was almost (literally and figuratively) too hot to be true, even before Taking Back Sunday would take the stage everyone was already soaked, so imagine the intensity as soon as they kicked off with latest album Happiness Is’s opener “Flicker, Fade”. Litres, litres, and litres of sweat alongside soaring singing and screaming were released into the air that night, guaranteed. Come on, just take a quick look at the picture below I took on-the-go in between two songs (it was probably before a mighty rendition of “A Decade Under the Influence” and right after majestically wrapping up old timer “Timberwolves at New Jersey”), it’s as if it’s sweating itself, isn’t it? You can almost see drops of rock and roll sweat trickling out of the frame. I assume this explanation excuses me for the poor graphical quality.

I reported Taking Back Sunday’s setlist of their Friday show at Rhythm Factory further below, adding up tunes to a little more than an hour of spectacular entertainment. Personal highlights were with no doubt never-heard-live-before “How I Met Your Mother”, Happiness Is’s b-side and one of their hardest but still somehow most melodic songs, “Better Homes and Gardens”, an intense moment for everyone attending and arguably among the standout tracks off of their latest effort, alongside a live-welcome back of “Spin”, at least with regard to UK soil according to frontman Adam Lazzara. The setlist was more or less replicated at their Sunday show at Slam Dunk South, with the only exception of the omission of the latter mentioned song, probably for time reasons. The context and scenarios were quite different on that occasion, and despite the fact I was able to get up basically until the first row, the whole thing looked indeed much more like a bigger occasion, not least because they were playing the main stage at an outdoor festival. Taking Back Sunday got the set slot between Don Broco, who played just before them, and main headliners You Me At Six, and therefore, quite understandably, the crowd wasn’t there just for the NY emo veterans, as it was the case for me, for instance. Thus, I felt a little more isolated among teens waiting in the vicinity of the front row for You Me At Six for the whole day, yet that didn’t stop me from losing my mind once again. Bearing in mind the sound distortion one gets when at the first row at a big open air festival, the band sounded and looked amazing. Particular mention should be made, in this case, for dance number “Stood a Chance”, personal favorite “Error: Operator” and, obviously, closing gems “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)” and “MakeDamnSure”, which got the major portion of the crowd go crazy, myself included.

All in all, this past one was certainly one of the most intense weekends I’ve ever had. I’m so glad I was able to make the most out of Taking Back Sunday’s most recent visit to the country I’m currently staying in. I’d do this again a million times, and probably will again in the future, would the possibility arise. These experiences enrich me enormously. And deliver me something priceless, which it’s not so much the fact that I got a guitar pick from Eddie Reyes or that I had close encounters with singer Adam Lazzara including a half-singing into his mic, but rather the confirmation that the connection and emotional intensity that this band is capable of catalysing in me is unlike anything else. I guess I can’t do nothing but thank them for what they do.

Taking Back Sunday’s setlist at Rhythm Factory, London (22.05.2015):

  1. Flicker, Fade
  2. What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost?
  3. Number Five with a Bullet
  4. How I Met Your Mother
  5. Liar (It Takes One to Know One)
  6. Stood a Chance
  7. Timberwolves at New Jersey
  8. A Decade Under the Influence
  9. Faith (When I Let You Down)
  10. You’re So Last Summer
  11. Better Homes and Gardens
  12. Error: Operator
  13. You Know How I Do
  14. Spin
  15. Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team)
  16. MakeDamnSure

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


TBS_Rhythm Factory


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.






TBS_Complete Recordings