ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): COLD WAR KIDS – “LA DIVINE” | 1st May, MMXVII

Hello there y’all. I’ve probably never been more distracted when drafting an ARM blogpost before and this really does come as a warning. I’m in the middle of moving house and country of residence, lord Ryan Adams just dropped a thunderous and tenacious collection of 19 (!) B-sides to his recent, critically acclaimed, and ARM-grilled album Prisoner and, last but definitely not least, Californian soul-punk outfit letlive. split indefinitely two days ago to my overwhelmingly unpleasant surprise. Yet, I really want to gift my musical impressions to the world as well in regards to San Pedro, CA-based indie legends Cold War Kids’ highly anticipated sixth studio album LA Divine, which came out early last month on Friday 7th April.

However, before I dig into the main bit of this piece, I feel I owe letlive. a short, impromptu obituary that will hopefully help demonstrate my love and affection for the band and, most of anything, the impact they’ve had on me. As I spotted their official goodbye statement a couple days ago on my social media feed it was one of those moments where the first thing you do is rub your eyes and re-read the whole thing, just to double- or even triple check that you really saw what you saw. I guess I’ve been quite lucky and fortunate in my musical fandom life so far as I almost never had to go through such a frightening realisation for the bands I love most and I will never betray or forget. Whilst it’s true that Nirvana and The Police, arguably my top favourite musical representations of all time, were actually already defunct and no more by the time I even started getting into them, other major artistic and incredible living influences on me such as Taking Back Sunday, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam or even Blink-182 are all still rocking stronger than ever. Yet letlive., who became an immense part of my life and world-perception around 7 years ago and have gone on deeply affecting me ever since, really feel like the first true, real-time musical abandonment in my life.

Letlive.’s music, energy, devotion, and lyrics all felt to me more urgent and necessary than almost anything else out there, whilst their profound carefulness for longstanding racial and social issues served as endless inspiration to say the least. Moreover, experiencing the Los Angeles-based post-hardcore band live in concert was a whole universe and life-changing occasion of its own, as I humbly tried to account for in this note. Losing them as a musical outfit is an irreplaceable loss not only for my very own artistic spectrum but for the wider alternative and counter-reacting scene as well, as possibly now more than ever the world and music would have needed their protesting rage, insurgent rebellious nature, and willingness to fight back against the establishment. With this I’d just want to thank them for having existed and wish all of the members’ very well in this hard but apparently necessary decision.

II. 2002 – 20XX. F O R E V E R Soul Punx. II._Forever

Back to our regularly scheduled programme, namely Cold War Kids’ latest 14-track effort LA Divine. I kind of have this theory where I think no good and superior art critic should ever review the same artist twice, as I feel doing so would detach them too much from that necessary fresh outlook that tends to kick in when someone is reviewing something for the first time, ultimately swallowing the critic into a subjective, self-reflecting and precedent-leaning rabbit hole that at the end of the day doesn’t benefit anyone. Thus, since I’m not a good and superior art critic myself, I feel ready to blindly omit the fact that almost exactly two years ago I already wrote – rather negatively – about Cold War Kids’ previous record Hold My Home.

The pre-release promotion for LA Divine was a rather ambitious one, with as much as four singles with correspondent music videos released in anticipation of the 44-minute long full-length effort. Incidentally, the San Pedro-native five piece decided to gradually release all first four songs on the tracklist in chronological order, paving the way with sparky and energetic lead single “Love is Mystical” on 2nd February, followed shortly after by the introspective and slower “Can We Hang On?” on 2nd March, and wrapping up with the Bishop Briggs soulful collab “So Tied Up” as well as 5-minute epic “Restless” in short succession just weeks before the full album release. Looking back, this really does feel like an interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive choice, as the four tracks aren’t too dissimilar from each other at all – that is, piano-heavy, chorus-driven bangers that all lean more than one hand in both sounds and vibe towards Cold War Kids’ previous LP Hold My Home – whilst the rest of LA Divine has so much more to offer indeed. Truly noteworthy out of the singles-bucket are the opening track, with its potent intentions in both beat and lyrics, as well as “Restless”, a rather beautiful tribute to Los Angeles and its ability to shape love relationships (“I don’t get jealous, I get free / Everything good comes back to me / It seems like wherever you are / Is just a better place to be“) all embedded in carrying melodies with a groovy piano and catchy verses doing most of the job.

As previously hinted at, this album has way more to offer and enjoy though than its singles (unsurprisingly, given that with its 14 tracks LA Divine marks Cold War Kids’ longest release to date). As our good ol vinyls teach us, this record too is shaped in such a way to be divided into four main bits/themes, sequentially separated by something close to an interlude, or skit, or even filler, depending on what one prefers to call them (“LA River”, “Wilshire Protest”, and “Cameras Always On”). For instance, the first psych/lo-fi interlude “LA River” is followed by what is arguably the album’s most exciting part, with great cuts such as the live-like uplifting “No Reason to Run” as well as the gangstery “Open Up the Heavens”, which presents some of the best vocal harmonies on the whole album and comes with irresistible badass-guitars.

“Luck Down” and “Ordinary Idols” make up the main third bit of LA Divine, with the former being a solid enjoyable indie tune and the most aggressive and sped up cut of the LP, whilst the latter arguably representing one of the dullest and most boring moments, only to be partially saved by quite sublime lyrics (“Why would you idolize me? / There’s nothing I got that you don’t / You keep on fantasizing / I’ll always be the underdog“). It follows the social media/instagram-hysteria critique skit “Cameras Always On”, which then throws the listener to the final part of the record and boy, that is one hell of a closure. Both the gentle and beautiful “Part of the Night” as well as the spacey and ambient-driven “Free to Breathe” make for an excellent wrap up with a rising and extremely inspiring note. This is true especially for closing track “Feel to Breathe”, which sees Cold War Kids at their songwriting best whilst at the same time surprising the listener with unexpected guitar arpeggios and wonderfully sung by frontman Nathan Willett.

Overall, LA Divine might as well be Cold War Kids’ most inspired and coherent album in a decade, with the band’s signature groovy and R&B piano once more dominating all major tracks and undoubtedly entailing some of the band’s best songs ever written (see “Restless”, “Part of the Night”, “Free to Breathe”). Yet, the album does come with highly skippable moments as well (see “Can We Hang On?”, “Ordinary Idols”), while here and there one can’t help but feel like some of the material on this records just sounds a bit too second-hand and recycled from previous work, above all 2013’s Dear Miss Lonelyhearts and 2015’s Hold My Home  (doesn’t “Love is Mystical” sound just like it could’ve come out of the same writing session as Dear Miss Lonelyhearts’ and Hold My Home’s lead singles “Miracle Mile” and “All This Could Be Yours”?). In other words, LA Divine could certainly have benefitted from more guitars and edgy sounds and less predictable piano-formula. It’s a shame, but nothing to despair. Cold War Kids might have been ok with rendering their home town of Los Angeles divine this time round, hopes for a switch to their songwriting abilities are high for what’s next to come.

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

COLD WAR KIDS

“LA DIVINE”

2017, Capitol Records

http://www.coldwarkids.com

CWK_LADivine

MUSIC IS FOR EVERYONE (AND SO IS FREEDOM) | 3rd April, MMXVII

I know it’s been a fairly high amount of ARM instalments on these premises lately, hence why I won’t be framing this very one as yet another one of those and, even though it most certainly deals with and celebrates the power of music, just putting out a friendly warning that Everything Must Swing might never have gotten this political before. Getting straight to the point and without unnecessary clicks-generating namedrops, in the past couple years the Western socio-political world has come to exist in a seemingly never ending state of widespread dysfunctional crisis and democratic disenfranchisement, mostly through forms of radical political movements gaining decisional power and by consequence hurting both economics and well beings of societies at large. Whilst I’m aware that, luckily, there have been many shapes and forms of protests over time (and one of them  many has made its way into this site before) –principally because protest and countermovements can be of different nature intrinsically and by design – there’s one particular initiative leveraging the power of arts and music more specifically that I’d like to bring to every reader’s attention.

The initiative I’m referring to is a music compilation album put together and curated by Taking Back Sunday‘s lead guitarist John Nolan, brilliantly called Music for Everyone and out just a couple days ago on 30th March via Collective Confusion Records and Californian Hopeless Records’ charity arm label Sub City Records. All proceeds from digital sales of the compilation will help support non-profit organisation American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a movement that for over 100 years has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties of people. Music for Everyone is a mighty 27-song compilation that features rare or unreleased music by an incredibly rich and talented bunch of artists ranging from punk legends Anti-Flag to rapper Gift of Gab, from emo-icon and former My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero to modern generation singer-songwriters such as Dave Hause and Kevin Devine. Not missing from the collection album’s tracklist is of course John Nolan’s very own Taking Back Sunday, who contributed with an exclusive new acoustic cut entitled “Just A Man”. This is John Nolan himself speaking about some of the reasons that brought him to put together such a massive collaborative effort:

“I also wanted to give artists an opportunity to express something about what’s gone on in this country over the past year and what’s coming in the next ones. I needed that for myself and wanted to connect with other people who needed it. And I wanted to take that need for self-expression and channel it into something bigger than all of us.”

The compilation and its stamp are quite clearly directed at angrily pushing back and expressing widespread discontent towards the recent election of Donald Trump as 45th president of the USA, as the main curator goes on explaining:

“In the next four years, there is a lot of potential to see policies that will discriminate against people of color, Muslims, women and the LGBT community. The ACLU has a long history of fighting discriminatory and unconstitutional policies and I wanted to do something to unite people in support of that fight.”

While there is little to add to such a noble and honourable intent, I do believe that the  inspiring and positive initiative brought forward by Music for Everyone could and should be applied in many other contexts regardless of background and geographic specifics, as in the end it’s all about those values of incisiveness, togetherness, tolerance and freedom that are currently being put under threat in so many geopolitical circumstances. If anyone feels that said values should indeed be protected and reinforced across the board whilst realising that so much of the free world is currently underway to limiting individual rights, then the least one could do would be to show some support by contributing to the cause by purchasing the album on its dedicated Bandcamp page. It’s a Name-Your-Own-Price (NYOP) model whereby each of us – very much in the spirit of the whole campaign – can freely decide how much to donate towards the project and the benevolent actions of the ACLU, starting with a price of $10.

As of now the compilation album is only available digitally in all its formats (download, streaming, etc…), and according to a recent Facebook Q&A session with John Nolan physical and vinyl releases might be planned for the future, depending on early successes of the initiative. Music-wise, as one can imagine with a tracklist of 27 songs, the album is extremely varied and rich in genres and sounds, carrying the listener through sonic journeys of punk rock draft tunes (Anti-Flag’s demo opener “Buried the Shame”), beautiful and heartbreaking songwriting intimacy (a live performance of “Honest Man” by wonderful Travis Hayes), upbeat dystopian scenarios (“I’m Paranoid” by Brett Newski), dirty and muddy existential anger (Frank Iero’s “Getting Into Heaven Can be Hell”) and, of course, more or less veiled punches in President Trump’s face, with the aforementioned Taking Back Sunday tune “Just A Man”, the vulnerable and addictive “sinn” by Cameron Boucher and anthemic hope closer “The Day After Tomorrow” as only some of the many highlights across these 90 minutes of protest music.

In a present world increasingly afflicted by humanitarian and identity crises across the board, there was never a less important time to state that we all were born in this together and that our energies are doubtlessly better spent elsewhere than in close-minded populist narratives and actions. Very much like our human race, music has always been there from the beginnings, crafting in itself a universally coded language driving progress and connection among nations, borders and ethnic groups. The Music for Everyone initiative is just a catalysing spark that is very much up for grab and re-invention, re-interpretation, and re-appropriation in other political and societal scenarios, acting so much as inspiration as it does as concrete localised initiative benefiting the immediate concrete actions of the ACLU. Let’s embrace this, let’s pick our own organisations to endorse and let’s try to push back at the injustices of present times, reminding everyone possible that just like music, freedom is for everyone.

Before we wrap up, make damn sure you read more on the various ACLU’s commitments to stand up for human rights in the wake of the recent US presidential election:  www.aclu.org/news/aclu-statement-donald-trumps-election

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

MusicForEveryone_CCR

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): TAKING BACK SUNDAY – “TIDAL WAVE” | 17th October, MMXVI

Alright folks, here we are. The time has finally come. After having hyped about it for months hinting at it through this Summer’s most anticipated releases list and scrupulously analysed one of its single’s music video, my very own and utterly personal take on Taking Back Sunday’s 7th LP Tidal Wave is here. The 12-track, 48-minute long record dropped almost exactly a month ago (16th September) and was released on independent Californian label Hopeless Records, as it was the case for their previous effort Happiness Is. The album was recoded and produced in North Carolina by Tell All Your Friend-magician and Taking Back Sunday’s longtime friend Mike Sapone, who again worked on their 6th LP too. In fact, if you’re keen on learning more about the whole album-making process and behind-the-scenes insights from the Sioux Sioux studio in Charlotte (NC) where everything took place – which to me is as equally fascinating as the finished product itself – the label recently put out a nice making-of video reportage of the whole recording process.

Actually, because of the existence of said footage and so as to preserve some of its exclusive value, I’m going to spare you the majority of the details as well as the background of what led the actual album to be recorded alongside some of the main creative narratives behind it, trying to get straight to what in the end represents the essence of it with no further ado: the music itself. However, there is one thing I’d like to mention indeed, namely the fact that this record represents the first time in the band’s history that the same line-up has released three records in a row. That is, up until this point the NY outfit always changed at least some parts of its formation before completing a third consecutive album with the same one (they got close after 2004’s Where You Want to Be and Louder Now two years after, only to be disrupted by shaky departures of bass player Matt Rubano and lead guitarist Fred Mascherino before 2009’s New Again [!] was put out). Moreover, the realisation that this very personal and to be fair not very impressive accomplishment is to be obtained with the OG line up that started it all in the first place, I think speaks for something that makes the gestation of Tidal Wave a little more special.

For this record the band abandoned the not very fortuned choice of a “preface”-like instrumental opener to dances (see Happiness Is), but rather come straight to the point with “Death Wolf”. And boy, oh boy, do they get straight to the point with a fast, edgy, and punky rollercoaster that in some ways is set to deceive the listener after its first ambient-y overture minute. This track is right to be placed at number one for many reasons, and even after a solid good month of repetitive listens to the whole effort to me it’s the one that stays with you long after you’ve pressed stop. It’s got everything I like about this band: it’s raw, emotional, groovy, unpredictable and its lyrics are quintessential Adam Lazzara and John Nolan (the band’s lead lyricists). Moreover, the song’s hilarious, juxtapositional and at times genius “music video” makes for an even better listening experience. Plus, how cool is it to have a song called “Death Wolf”?! Just dope. The record continues with a duo of tracks, “Tidal Wave” and “You Can’t Look Back”, that were the ones already known to the large public being the first and second lead singles off the record. The title track at number two is an unapologetic tribute to some of the band’s main influences (The Ramones, The Clash, pure punk-rock more in general) and might as well be one of the catchiest songs Taking Back Sunday has ever written. To me a wonderful choice for both a title tracked-song and a first leading single. Fun fact is that, apparently, if it weren’t for drummer Mark O’Connell insisting on developing the song’s first raw ideas coming from John Nolan, the track might as well never have made the cut into the record. As for the following, third track, I’d spare you any more commentary and simply refer to a recent piece where I take a look at its music video (warning: it’s highly interpretable!).

The record then carries on to what might arguably be its most sophisticated and sonically mature part, showcasing the triade of songs “Fences”, “All Excess”, and “I Felt it Too”. At the same time, these tracks also represent some of the biggest departures in the band’s previous sounds, proposing solid and cohesive modern-day rock songs that encompass elaborated guitar sounds and unexpected electric/acoustic switches (“Fences”), incredible melodic feel entangled with signature emotional rawness (“All Excess”) as well as cradling, stripped down, and somehow hypnotic soundscapes that just don’t make you leave until the last note (“I Felt It Too”). From there, the album gets picked up by “Call Come Running”, a song that might have easily competed for first single from the start and that sees the band wearing their 80s influences pretty unapologetically offering another big, harmonic chorus similarly to what has long characterised one of Taking Back Sunday’s most widely appreciate traits. Next on the tracklist is “Holy Water”, and I have no shame in explicitly saying that, alongside “Death Wolf” and “Fences”, it is up there for the contender of personal favourite of the whole record. The track delivers emotionality from all its components and does a fantastic job in mixing songwriting, structure, and sound effects in a sustainable way that just works. In many ways it’s one of Taking Back Sunday’s best songs ever, in that I feel it enables each member to shine justifying their contribution in a way that actually enhances the creative constellation of the musical outcome without falling into risky self-referential schemes. “In the Middle of It All”, next one on the list, changes the landscape yet again pulling a lot of the band’s past sounds but reverting them back into a rocky production that has rarely been left so “dirty” and “gainy” ever before. Also, take a closer listen to Mark O’Connell’s drumming on this one, really going the extra mile delivering one of his best performances.

Tidal Wave, the artwork of which is as usual reported below and as a good friend of mine made me aware, has too many (more or less subtle) references to Nirvana’s Nevermind to go unnoticed, approaches its end with a trio of acoustic-led tracks, which from an overall musical standpoint could even make sense but unfortunately doesn’t really convince. My feeling is that one among the three tracks could’ve been left out (“We Don’t Go In There”?), a decision which by the way would’ve landed the record on to eleven tracks, which has always been the case for all previous Taking Back Sunday albums. While both “Homecoming” and “I’ll Find a Way to Make It What You Want” definitely have great ideas and display some interestingly looking-forward folk/americana influences, I just can’t abandon the sensation that the three tracks presented like this in a subsequent row are hard to sustain. Shame, because as just hinted at it would’ve been enough to simply drop one tune and it would’ve made for an even more brilliant record, overall. In other words, this kind of track listing ending has sometimes found me quitting the album listening experience at its peak, i.e. just after “In the Middle of It All”, not so much for lack of excitement to carry on but rather for impending fear of bringing this record “back to normality”, where it definitely shouldn’t be.

With that said, Tidal Wave is no doubt up there in the pantheon of Taking Back Sunday’s best work, representing a perfect snapshot of where the band is at right now both personally and artistically. There’s a lot of maturity, sound development, and lyrical refinement to be found among the twelve album tracks. In this regard, one of the things that work best here to me are song transitions, as they’re never hard placed or in any way forced, making for an extremely seamless and streamlined listening experience and giving even more legitimacy to the concept of “album” as a whole. The overall feeling is that with this release the band is at its most transparent and honest it has ever been, while one can totally tell that something special was started again by the original line up when they reunited with their 2011’s self titled record. The musical and lyrical narrative of the current incarnation 2.0 is there to be grasped with full force and in a much more tangible way than ever before, and this is successfully accompanied by innate compositional talent too. All in all, to keep this progress going, it simply looks like the NY alternative rock veterans have no other choice other than to ride this (tidal) wave for many, many other years to come.

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

TAKING BACK SUNDAY

“TIDAL WAVE”

2016, Hopeless Records

http://www.takingbacksunday.com

tbs_tidalwave

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

Watch the video first: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqmKSb0kPjo

– Apologies for not being able to glamorously embed the video directly into this post but my poor man’s WordPress free subscription for some reasons treats said function as superior capability and doesn’t want me to be in a position to undertake it –

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

ALEX REVIEWS MUSIC (ARM): JOHN NOLAN – “SAD, STRANGE, BEAUTIFUL DREAM” | 25th July, MMXV

A bunch of months ago I wrote a little something about Taking Back Sunday lead guitarist John Nolan‘s new solo album project in collaboration with PledgeMusic and about how the whole thing really got me excited and all. Well, as you all know time goes by really fast and we’ve eventually come to the point when John officially released his second full-length album entitled “Sad, Strange, Beautiful Dream” through a jointed partnership between the aforementioned crowdsourcing music platform and Collective Confusion Records, who’s primarily taking care of the physical copies of the release. Besides the amount of cool stuff worth a mention related to the chosen promotional strategy, such as the variety of pre-ordering packages or the fact that 10% of all the money collected through the album’s sale will be donated to a pediatric facility in Memphis, TN (St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), I’ve now taken some time to give the full record, released digitally yesterday 24th July, a proper listen and I feel like I’ve got something to say about it. Also, it kinda makes sense to follow up on the matter on a more technical-musical note, doesn’t it?

John already unveiled a number of tracks over the course of the pre-release period, such as album opener and teenage era-teller “American Nightclub 1999”, the brilliantly titled – but possibly less convincing arrangement – “Drinking Your Way to Confidence” as well as existential-ballad “How Much”, although this latter one went through a substantive sound-polishing if compared to the early released version and arguably became the absolute best track on the record, mixing terrific melodic songwriting with a perfectly raw-edgy instrumentation delivering an immersive sappy feeling (How much can we control? / I don’t know / As much as we can). A little less than a month ago John then released the mastered version of the sparkling and lyrically-terrifying “Street Robbery Blues”, undoubtedly the most energetic and fast tune on the whole album entailing a very interesting uplifting-dark juxtaposition between the lyrics and the music itself. Yet, with the exception made of “How Much”, the best material on the album was not revealed until its full release.

“War is Peace” leads the list of never-heard-before songs on the album and immediately feels like it could have been born out of a raw idea for a Taking Back Sunday song, presenting a properly distorted rock band-modus instrumental base alongside a galloping tempo. The track is followed by the folky-acoustic “Next to You (In New Orleans)”, which probably depicts the lowest point of the record as it results incapable of really taking off in its own terms. The provisional down-status is suddenly mightily overcome with a consecutive couple of triumphant songs that really stand out on the whole. “I’ll Be Home Soon” is a piano-led ballad that truly gets under the listener’s skin and also delivers a quite catchy chorus, something that’s absolutely not to be taken for granted when it comes to slowed down ballads: well done John. It follows the album’s title track, which in some ways does sound a little out of context with its abundance of synth-fillings and indie-pop dyeing but which, after a few listens, already begins to make sense again, not least because it does really encompass traces of sadness, strangeness and beauty in a dreamy atmosphere. After a re-interpretation of 2012 track “C’est Le Fin Du Monde”, originally released on a split 7″ with indie rock band Mansions and the sonic perfection of the previously mentioned “How Much”, John Nolan’s second solo album comes to a close with the brilliant “I Will Be Released”, a sing-along choir anthem curiously and romantically written with his wife Camille.

In a way it’s truly funny and misleading to read on his artist’s description on PledgeMusic that he’s being labelled as folk-acoustic musician, because “Sad, Strange, Beautiful Dream” seems to confirm he’s actually not, and even at the times when he probably is, the record feels the most vulnerable (cf. “Next to You”). Given the quality of this last effort, he should feel no shame at all to confidently present himself as a modern alternative-rock act, not least given the mighty studio collaborations he took advantage of during the recording process. Yet, tags and label don’t really matter at all as soon as one realises where musical quality is and that it shouldn’t be constrained by arbitrary boundaries at all. This is precisely what John Nolan has apparently come to realise with this record: with precious songwriting, instrumental rawness, lyrical honesty and a little experimentation he’s delivered his best musical outcome to date.

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

JOHN NOLAN

“SAD, STRANGE, BEAUTIFUL DREAM”

2015, COLLECTIVE CONFUSION RECORDS

www.pledgemusic.com/projects/johnnolan

JOHN-NOLAN

(MY NEED FOR) TAKING BACK FRIDAY & SUNDAY | 27th May, MMXV

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.

AV

TBS_Rhythm Factory