To survey the post-punk landscape in 2006 was to witness rippling waves of Taking Back Sunday’s influence. The band inadvertently launched a full-scale outbreak with their landmark debut, Tell All Your Friends, pouring gasoline on a spark set by acts like Thursday and At the Drive-In. Seemingly within a matter of weeks, the underground scene had ballooned with bands anxious to capture that same fire and fans eager for another dose.
By the time Taking Back Sunday released their third full length album, that same scene had reached a fever pitch – Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard were staples on pop radio, Underoath and Saosin were igniting a new brand of post-hardcore, and My Chemical Romance was about to become one of the largest rock bands in the universe. In this new world of scene stardom, was there still room for the band that set it all in motion a half-decade prior?
Yes. Yes, there was.
Never a band to follow suit or settle for ordinary, Taking Back Sunday leapt from their home at Victory Records to the big leagues at Warner Bros. to release Louder Now, the band’s most commercially successful record to date. In true Taking Back Sunday fashion, the album is full of surprises and incredibly divisive.
For contentious fans looking for reasons to be bothered yet again in the wake of Where You Want to Be, reasons abounded. Louder Now is decidedly more polished and well rounded than the band’s previous two releases. It’s an alt-rock record built for radio that dabbles in emo and punk elements without showing its hand. If you demand on pointing to a moment when Taking Back Sunday “jumped the shark,” Louder Now is Exhibit A.
On the other, more level-headed hand, Louder Now is an expertly crafted rock record. Although the band’s tumultuous divorce from guitarist Fred Mascherino lay just around the corner, it’s difficult to deny the cohesive nature of this album. In place of chaos lay deep melodies and tight songwriting. Louder Now was the next logical step for a band seeking to mature beyond its roots and become a bonafied rock band on a grander stage.
Louder Now toned down much of the emotive commotion that put the band on the map without losing any necessary energy. True to its name, the album is loud and brash at the right moments, but also showcases a band that had outgrown its own skin. Opener “What it Feel Like to Be a Ghost” is a shining example of the Taking Back Sunday we never knew – Mascherino and Eddie Reyes’ guitars are tight and crisp, while Mark O’Connell’s finely tuned drums splinter through the mix. It’s a full sound that gave room for Adam Lazzara to stretch his melodies in new and exciting ways.
For all of the sonic changes on Louder Now, the band still made room for some of their best throwback moments. The call and response vocals between Mascherino and Lazzara on “Liar (It Takes One to Know One)” and “MakeDamnSure” harken back to the early days of TBS, with Lazzara still finding room for some of his signature silver-tongued one-liners. His biting delivery of, “My inarticulate store-bought hangover hobby kit it talks / And says, ‘You, oh, you are so cool’” on “MakeDamnSure” still remains one of the most delightfully tongue-twisting moments on tape. When Lazzara hisses, “The abortion that you had left you clinically dead / And made it all that much easier to lie” on “Spin”, it’s clear that ghosts of the old Taking Back Sunday remain.
Nestled in between the more raucous moments rested some of the band’s best songwriting to date and the building blocks for what was to come on later releases. “Miami” remains one of the most criminally underrated tracks in recent rock memory, with its smooth intro leading to a pulse-pounding bridge, highlighted by a sizzling guitar solo and Lazzara’s escalating lines of, “The terror held in wedding bells / The comfort in there’s no one else”.
Likewise, tracks like “Up Against (Blackout)” and “Twenty-Twenty Surgery” provide surprising changes of pace throughout, while showcasing the band’s expanding repertoire and knack for melody. From front to back, Louder Now is a contained fire – one that burns brightly without whipping out of control or descending into unnecessary or forced disorder. It was a necessary evolution that propelled the band into the second stage of their career.
At the time, the resounding triumph of a platinum album that found the band as festival and arena headliners appeared vindication for the painful falling out with John Nolan and Shaun Cooper just a few years prior. Nevertheless, it would be only a year before another painful falling out would lead to another rebirth (New Again), followed by another falling out and a full-circle reunion of the original cast (Taking Back Sunday). Through the tumultuous years that followed, the success of Louder Now sustained the band, leading to 2014’s Happiness Is, a new classic worthy of placement alongside the band’s best work.
Now in their 17th year of existence, internal conflict and constant change has done little to limit the band’s growth. Taking Back Sunday still rests firmly perched atop the scene they helped build all those years ago. Ten years later, Louder Now still reverberates as a classic record – an album that showed up-and-coming bands how to evolve and how to navigate the mainstream. It also made damn sure we all knew one thing: Taking Back Sunday was going to be sticking around for a while. We’re so glad they have.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.