Taking Back Sunday
Where You Want to Be
et’s start from the proposition that Taking Back Sunday is emo. And not just emo, but the purest, most virulent strain of the stuff. Like, if you wanted to construct a band to cash in on the popularity of the genre, every element would be present. The shouted vocals, the harmonized vocals, the overbearing emotional theatrics, the transcendent choruses, the throwback almost-hardcore track, the mix of almost funny and definitely self-pitying track titles, the tension-building repeated guitar figure and the almost hip-hop drum breakdowns. Oh. And the acoustic number. OK, now that’s out of the way, let’s move on.
Taking Back Sunday do what they set out to do very well. They hit appropriate cultural touchstones (daytime dramas, 1993), emo(te) their angst ably and project their problems onto the twin poles of emo: the self and the other (the female). And you have to admire them for it. There is a certain beauty in a band that sets out to embody a cliché and then goes out and does it.
But it’s still a cliché. And there’s little beauty in those—only simplicity. They’re reductive, boring and dangerous. By smoothing away all of the interesting bits and only focusing on what works immediately and viscerally, the band offers cheap thrills and obvious answers. But, by God, does “One Eighty by Summer” sound good.
And so does “A Decade Under the Influence” with its traded vocals, split stereo guitars and bottom-heavy bass. It’s a studied furiousness that the group pursues there and in other places, but it’s a furiousness that works. You believe it, if only for the length of the song. But that’s as long as the group needs, right?
So don’t look too far into “This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know)” with its doubled vocals and soaring chorus and “Bonus Mosh Part II”’s Dashboard Confessional bridge and Thursday vocals. Because on the way to the bank after cashing the royalty checks on the number two record in the country this week, Taking Back Sunday have no reason to look back over their success and analyze it. They just do it. And we just listen to it. So tune in. Drop out. And let the music wash over you. It’s the only way to enjoy it. Just like clichés.