Taste of Chaos 2016: A Reason to Look Forward

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If you’ve followed any of the chatter surrounding this year’s resurrected Taste of Chaos tour, you’ve undoubtedly had your fill of wistful musings of days past. Certainly, it’s easy to get sentimental when glancing at the lineup – a who’s who of scene goliaths that paved the way for the approaching hurricane of nu-emo culture at the turn of the millennium. But to boil this summer trek down to nothing more than a mere nostalgia trip would be to miss the point entirely.

Chris Carrabba has dusted off Dashboard Confessional in recent months, releasing a new song this spring with plans for further recording. Taking Back Sunday is fresh off the heels of 2014’s refreshing Happiness Is and has a new album in the works. Saosin has reunited with original lead vocalist Anthony Green and released a new album, Along the Shadow, to critical acclaim last month. The Early November dropped one of 2015’s best rock records in Imbue just last spring.

All this to say that while it’s fun to reflect on the past, every band on this year’s Taste of Chaos tour is in full swing and primed for another step forward. Even if there’s nothing left to prove, there’s still plenty left to say.

For Early November vocalist Ace Enders, a man who has written and released a mountain of songs through his various creative channels, it’s almost hard to believe that he’s still getting better. Imbue is arguably the band’s best work to date, and on night three of Taste of Chaos in Indianapolis, Enders sounds just as impassioned singing “Narrow Mouth” as he does “Baby Blue”. Playing from a catalogue that stretches across 12 years, The Early November sound tighter than ever.

Saosin

Saosin

Speaking of spans of time, it’s still hard to believe your eyes when Anthony Green takes the stage with Saosin, a band he departed in 2004. Still, after the release of the ambitious Along the Shadow, it’s clear that this reunion means business. With a collection of 13 new songs to draw from, Saosin is able to stretch beyond Translating the Name with their setlist, offering fans the chance to hear the band shred across their new tracks.

While it’s still just as fun to hear “Seven Years” as it was all those years ago, it’s more interesting to hear the band tackle their new creations. In this setting, “Racing Toward a Red Light” sounds like the heaviest song Saosin has ever written. Likewise, “Illusion & Control” allows guitarist Beau Burchell and drummer Alex Rodriguez to let loose on stage during the song’s climactic close. With an expanding setlist, the only downside is not being rewarded with “Voices” or another track from the band’s equally celebrated Cove Reber era.

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday

By the time Taking Back Sunday takes the stage, the lawn at White River State Park has filled out and the sun is beginning to set along the horizon. Rays of light cut through the stage backdrop, highlighting a confident Adam Lazzara as he struts across the stage. It’s a testament to Lazzara’s continued commitment to his craft that the mystifying mic swings are now merely a compliment to his overall performance. On this night, he rips through the set, sounding as solid as ever.

It’s a mix of the old and the new as the band opens with “Cute Without the ‘e’” before shifting to “Liar” and “Flicker, Fade”. With six albums under their belt and a laundry list of hits, it gets harder to know which tracks are the real mainstays. During their set, Taking Back Sunday try out a few new tricks fresh from the studio. “Holy Water” sounds like a suitable evolution from Happiness Is, while Tidal Wave sounds like a Ramones cover.

As intriguing as it is to get a glimpse of the future, it’s still hard to deny the indulgence of “A Decade Under the Influence” and “MakeDamnSure”. With any luck, band’s forthcoming record will only add to the growing list of Taking Back Sunday signature tracks, just as “Better Homes and Gardens” joined the list two years ago.

Dashboard Confessional

Dashboard Confessional

After three provisions of various kinds of chaos, it’s almost appropriate for Dashboard Confessional to bring things to a close. Carrabba has long been one of the most joyful performers in the scene, providing an ironic catharsis in the midst of so many painful songs. Yet to hear the crowd sing along heartily to “Stolen” and “Don’t Wait”, it’s clear that his songs of delight resound just as loudly with fans.

Carrabba has shape-shifted through the years from broken-hearted loner to confident rock icon to pensive folk artist without ever seeming unsure in his step. He’s a crafty songwriter with a knack for connecting with his aging audience, effortlessly meeting them where they are. On stage, he’s just as much a conductor as he is a performer, leading the choir through a history of heartbreak and redemption.

It’s only here that the nostalgia seems prevalent, perhaps because of the subject matter, but also because Carrabba seems to understand his role in 2016. He no doubt wants to revisit Dashboard with the intent of creating new material, but he also seems satisfied to rekindle an old flame with his fans. As is his custom, he regularly steps away from the mic for long periods, letting the crowd carry the band through songs like “The Best Deceptions”, “Saints and Sailors” and even the chorus of Coldplay’s “Fix You”. We’re all Dashboard Confessional, according to Chris.

While it’s not wrong to remember the past, it’s unnecessary to dwell there. On this year’s Taste of Chaos, we reflect on the moments that made us fall in love with music, but we also celebrate the fact that the same voices that sang our soundtracks are still singing new songs. And so are we.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

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Reflecting On: Taking Back Sunday – Louder Now

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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_hauckKiel 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.

Reflecting on: Taking Back Sunday – Where You Want to Be

Photo by Brian Appio

Throughout 2014, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

There’s apparently a very thin line between sophomore slump and comeback of the year – just ask Taking Back Sunday. Their 2004 album Where You Want to Be may be the most divisive album released in the scene in the past 10 years. Depending on whom you ask, the album is either the best release in the band’s catalogue and an emo classic, or it’s an absolute throwaway and marks the beginning of a downward spiral for the band.

While the debate rages on a decade later, one thing is for certain: Where You Want to Be served as a launching pad, thrusting Taking Back Sunday from underground to mainstream success and was a major player in the mid-2000s emo explosion.

But how good is the album in its own right? Let’s find out.

The case against Where You Want to Be

Taking Back Sunday’s debut, Tell All Your Friends is an undeniable classic. It took the scene by storm seemingly overnight with its manic energy, impassioned back-and-forth vocals from Adam Lazzara and John Nolan, and a sound that seemed to defy categorization. That debut was akin to a crackling livewire.

Where You Want to Be fails to fit the mold created by Taking Back Sunday two years prior. The departure of Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper undeniably left a void in the songwriting department, and although the addition of Fred Mascherino and Matt Rubano certainly added new strengths to the band, there’s no argument to be made that Lazzara shared the same creative connection with Mascherino as he did with Nolan.

That’s not to say that the songs on Where You Want to Be lack depth or emotion, but it’s a much more contained fire. That containment is even more pronounced due to the album’s production, handled by Lou Giordano, a man involved in breakout albums for bands like Goo Goo Dolls and Plain White T’s.

While Tell All Your Friends is a raw and rabid animal from start to finish, Where You Want to Be possesses a kind of sheen that makes songs like “A Decade Under the Influence” and “This Photograph is Proof” sound radio ready. There’s truly no denying the pop appeal of the album, nor the role that it played in the band’s crossover and eventual signing to Warner Bros.

For fans of the raw, bleeding-heart emotion of Tell All Your Friends, Where You Want to Be serves as the prime suspect for the band’s turn towards the alt-rock world and sold out arena tours. It signifies a band’s loss of innocence and hunger for commercial success. In the world of underground music, there’s truly no greater sin.

The case for Where You Want to Be

The beauty of Tell All Your Friends truly lives in the nostalgia – what that album meant at the time and the change it brought about. Several of the band members were in their late teens at the time of the album’s writing and recording, and it’s easy to tell upon spinning the record in 2014.

Yes, Tell All Your Friends is an absolute classic, an extraordinary debut and a game-changing record. But it also has its flaws, and to ask the band to write songs like “Bike Scene” for the rest of their career would be not only unjust, but also a death sentence. For Taking Back Sunday, growth meant taking a step towards a bigger pond and learning how to flex their songwriting muscles in a way that made sense for a band on the rise.

Where You Want to Be highlights this growth in nearly every conceivable way. A newly-found controlled chaos allows the band to build towards powerful moments within the album’s 11 tracks as opposed to living in a constant frenzy.

“One Eighty By Summer” serves as a prime example of this. The song refuses to follow any sort of predictable song structure, but excels in its ability to push the sound through the roof at the appropriate moments. The track features two crescendos filled with furious battles between Lazzara and Mascherino atop swelling guitars, with help from Eddie Reyes.

“Set Phasers to Sun” is an incredible opening track with powerful drumming from Mark O’Connell, an incredible guitar transition during the chorus from Mascherino, and the repeated cry of “I’m sorry it took me so long” from Lazzara during the song’s opening seconds. Within minutes, the song captures the essence of old Taking Back Sunday with a new pop appeal punch.

Whereas Tell All Your Friends often borders on the juvenile, Where You Want to Be shows real growth in songwriting, and its clear that Mascherino’s presence bolstered the band’s ability to push themselves in a more mature direction. To follow Lazzara’s lyrical journey is to follow the growth of the man himself. His words and performance on Where You Want to Be highlight a necessary step in the right direction.

Where You Want to Be may lack the rough-around-the-edges appeal of its predecessor, but it more than makes up for it by being a complete front-to-back experience of a band on the rise.

The verdict

In truth, these sorts of debates always boil down to subjective opinions based on taste and personal preference, but to me, Where You Want to Be should be considered a classic. To follow-up a generation-defining debut after losing two crucial members and still create such a buzz-worthy release is truly a feat worthy of praise.

The debate between Nolan and Mascherino will likely continue until the end of time, but perhaps there’s no debate necessary. Both are incredibly talented musicians and songwriters and both brought a completely different feel to the band. I think it’s clear that both possess worthy strengths and both have added much to Taking Back Sunday’s catalogue. The difference between Tell All Your Friends and Where You Want to Be largely lives in the divide between those strengths.

Where You Want to Be isn’t the last great Taking Back Sunday album and it wasn’t the first. For a band with an expansive and still-growing impressive catalogue, it seems foolish to split hairs amongst some truly massive releases.

Is Where You Want to Be Taking Back Sunday’s best album? Maybe. More than anything, though, it represents a major step in the band’s career and an incredible follow up to a stellar debut amidst challenge, change and turmoil.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Photo by Brian Appio

Review: Taking Back Sunday – Happiness Is

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Happiness Is, the new album from Taking Back Sunday, is as much a return to form as it is an evolution of their self-titled record. As the third album to feature the band’s ‘classic’ line-up, Happiness Is is more paced than its recent predecessors and sounds more in line as a spiritual successor to Tell All Your Friends than any other album the band has released.

While it doesn’t pack the energy or punch of an album like Louder Now, Taking Back Sunday has arguably put together their most cohesive record to date.

TBS have gone back to the basics for Happiness Is, taking their time to build strong and layered songs that cap with a hugely rewarding payoff instead of a power hungry punk record. It’s the most mature the band have sounded in their career and a full step ahead of their self-titled. Happiness Is can be off-putting at times, as it really does bring back memories of early TBS, as well as some of the best aspects of old-time rivals Brand New.

Musically, the band is much more patient, drawing out their songs systematically for the long haul. “It Takes More” sits in the middle of the album and is a slower paced song for TBS. Lead single “Flicker, Fade” always felt a bit off for me, and an odd choice to lead the album until put into context. The short “Preface” that starts the record off is a minute and a half instrumental build-up that leads into “Flicker, Fade” that demonstrates the pace as perfectly as you could hope.

That’s not to say that the album doesn’t pull all of its punches. The second half of the record is much faster, with songs like “They Don’t Have Any Friends”, which sounds like it was ripped straight from Where You Want to Be and offers some of the best dueling vocals between Lazzara and Nolan.

“We Were Younger Then” offers a rock song at a quicker pace before it slows down for a gentle break down, with Lazzara crooning over lost memories, singing, “Only in pictures before have I seen, anything left from where I am standing” over and over through the song’s finale.

Once again, Adam Lazzara and John Nolan play off of each other magnificently. Lazzara shows off his vocal range to great degree, from gentle croons to shouting during songs like “Better Homes and Gardens”, where he shows his desperation and pain when he sings, “When you took that ring off, threw it at your feet, you didn’t say a word much less look at me”. The variety and energy in his voice is that of a rock star as he toys with every note in his range throughout the album.

Nolan plays a perfect secondary singer in that he never feels forced or trying to upstage the songs. Instead, he stays hidden for the most part until a chorus, where he picks and chooses the exact moments to quietly shout from the back. It keeps him from becoming tiring and instead makes him the booster that Lazzara needs to make the song pop.

Happiness Is is the comeback album we’ve been wanting since the original line-up announced that they were getting back together. It shows the strength of the band as a whole and tends to pick some of the best aspects of their past albums to create a sound that is both a natural evolution as well as a nostalgic reflex as to why they became so aggressively popular in the first place.

Happiness Is isn’t perfect, but it’s much more fine-tuned than Taking Back Sunday could’ve hoped to have been. It won’t replace Tell All Your Friends as the go-to album for fans, but will definitely be one of the showcases for why the band has stayed so relevant in the scene throughout the years.

4/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.

Taking Back Sunday stream new album Happiness Is

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It’s here a week early! Taking Back Sunday is currently streaming their new album Happiness Is in its entirety on Pandora. The album releases next Tuesday (March 18) on Hopeless Records. You can preorder the album on iTunes.

The band kicks off its co-headlining tour with The Used this week. You can check out the dates and get tickets here.

What are your thoughts on the album? How does it measure up to the rest of the band’s catalogue? Share your thoughts with us in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Adam Lazzara releases “Because it Works” music video

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Adam Lazzara, frontman of Taking Back Sunday, has released a music video for his new single “Because it Works”. The song is from the recent compilation, I Surrender Records Presents: Our Voices. You can view the music video below:

The video was directed by Shamus Coneys and finds Lazzara displaying a much folkier side of himself than listeners of Taking Back Sunday might expect. You can buy the compilation on iTunes.

Posted by Kiel Hauck