Six albums in and following multiple major line-up changes, Taking Back Sunday prove they can still make excellent records with their newest addition Happiness Is. The new album has been highly anticipated since their self-titled release in 2011 which marked the return of original members John Nolan and Shaun Cooper who left after 2002’s iconic Tell All Your Friends. Almost three years later and after a major recording set-back in 2012 when front-man Adam Lazzara suffered a broken leg as a result of a freak tree accident, the new album has arrived and is definitely worth the wait.
Taking Back Sunday was a solid record but arguably weak in comparison, falling short next to the other records in their collection including Tell All Your Friends and 2006’s Louder Now. Fortunately, Happiness Is measures up to the rest and earns a place as one of the better albums under their belt.
The new album shows a positive, upbeat direction for the boys from Long Island which was signalled by the two singles unveiled prior to the album’s release in Flicker, Fade and Stood a Chance. The latter is probably the album’s best offering, featuring dark lyrics (“I’m gonna tear you apart”) over a surprisingly fast tempo and catchy, happy beat in signature Taking Back Sunday style. The catchy, anthemic chorus is not unlike Taking Back Sunday hits of the past (MakeDamnSure, What’s It Feel Like To Be a Ghost, anyone?) and is sure to be a fan favourite just like the others.
The pace slows slightly after the two singles which feature early in the album after the minute-and-a-half long Preface, with All The Way. Lazzara’s familiar voice is comforting in the smooth, emotionally charged tune which features a subdued instrumental backdrop to complement his distinctive and captivating vocals.
While Taking Back Sunday unveiled two of the album’s best tracks as singles, none of the other songs strike as being simple fillers or easy to skip over. The boys saved some powerful ammo for the record, notably in a track called Beat Up Car which is reminiscent of early TBS in the intricate riffs and angsty vocals with explosive choruses and almost haunting, emotional verses.
The middle of the album is marked by a song called It Takes More, which is full of rhythmic, melodic verses and a powerful, melancholy chorus. This song is another catchy, sing-a-long-able track, but with more of a lighters-in-the-air vibe than a happy one (“I knew right then I’d do it all again/I’ll do it all again/Just to feel like I used to/…To feel anything at all”). The chorus features overlapping vocals which creates an angsty, urgent feel and provides the song with emotional depth, resulting in another classic TBS track.
Better Homes and Gardens is an honest, emotional track featuring story-telling lyrics and a classic strong TBS anthem-style chorus (“You’ll never be happy/But it was all for nothing/It was all a waste”) as Lazzara sings about the end of a relationship (“When you took that ring off/I sat there stunned/Parked out in my car”).
Like You Do marks the last upbeat, bouncy track on the album as it winds down with the slower We Were Younger Then and Nothing At All. The latter ends the record on an acoustic-based note as Lazzara’s voice shines through the simple track which gradually builds before ending simply and softly.
Happiness Is shows that the original Taking Back Sunday line-up still works even after more than a decade. The record is solid and impressive, proving that the boys from Long Island know and have what it takes to remain competitive in the alternative rock world. Featuring both ends of the scale fans know and love them for, including the poppy and upbeat numbers (Stood a Chance, Like You Do) and emotionally charged anthems (Beat Up Car, Better Homes and Gardens), the record is sure to satisfy old and new fans. To sum up – Happiness Is… Taking Back Sunday.