There’s a lot to be said when a band takes a hiatus, re-shuffles their lineup, or just takes a breather to reset their focus on their music. 152 is the first album by Taking Back Sunday in seven years (with their last effort coming in 2016’s Tidal Wave), and arguably their best one yet. The album anniversaries of Tell All Your Friends and the upcoming 20-year mark of Where You Want To Be may have had a hand in TBS re-focusing their attention on their songwriting craft. There is also something to be said of the magic that happens when lead vocalist Adam Lazzara and guitarist John Nolan get in a room together to pen songs. 152 is a career-spanning love letter to the legacy Taking Back Sunday have built over their eight-album tenure, and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The first track, “Amphetamine Smiles” sets the tone for 152 with a somber reflection on just how hard the past few years have been as Lazzara croons, “So you’re standing on the corner, you were waiting for me / It must’ve been past midnight / Started thinking to myself it’s been a bad couple years / Soon everything will be alright.” The quiet and heartfelt reflecting process is well-organized, and Nolan’s guitar playing is top tier on this song. “S’old” kicks the tempo up a few gears, and rocks along with veteran ease that revisits the glory days of the Warped Tour-era and the scene’s explosion. The music video was captured at a house party in Long Island, and reinvigorates the interest in Taking Back Sunday’s brand of rock.
The vivid storytelling of “The One” finds the partnership between Nolan/Lazzara bearing major fruit, as the band quickly reminds fans why they stuck around for so long. The second verse of, “Now I’m close enough to reach you / All the walls that I could see through / Still the words that I can’t say go on and on and on / So now I’m giving you that little bit / Of time you said you needed then / Because you’re the one,” is just laser-focused songwriting at its best. “Keep Going” is an ode to staying the course of a long musical career, and features a great one-two punch between longtime drummer Mark O’Connell and bassist Shaun Cooper to keep the pulsating rhythm at an all-time high.
The front half closes out with the ballad “I Am The Only One Who Knows You.” It’s a rich, contextual song that unfolds at just the right pacing. Lazzara explains on the chorus, “And I’m the only one who knows you / I’m the only one who knows / When there’s a feeling, there’s a promise, there’s an innocence gone / And it’s not coming back, so you keep moving on / And I’m the only one, only one who knows you,” as he makes that deep connection with the subject matter in the song.
The back half never loses its early momentum gained with the moody and atmospheric vibes put out on “Quit Trying,” paired with the subsequent “Lightbringer,” that features somber verses that explode into a crowd-pleasing chorus. The self-conscious “New Music Friday” features some great lyrics of, “The best laid plans of rats and men / You know it’s never gonna end / Moving slow, stone cold hands / Dragging anchors through the sand / And I don’t know, I’ll see you there / Tell myself I don’t care / That’s a lie, I tell myself this all the time / I tell myself that I don’t mind.” It’s songs like these that make sticking by Taking Back Sunday so incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.
”Juice 2 Me” features a spiraling, spider-web esque guitar riff from John Nolan that sets the tone for the rest of the song, while album closer, “The Stranger” is a nice encapsulation of all the styles TBS went for on this record. I connected with the second verse of, “There you go again / Leaning on the fence / Why’s it always have to be this hard / Shouldn’t have to be this god damned hard,” since it reminded me of the tough days of early love and relationships that took a ton of effort, while Lazzara brings it home with, “‘Cause don’t you get lonely? / Like I know you get lonely? / Come on, act like you know me / Don’t you get lonely?”
From not knowing when Taking Back Sunday would ever return after a seven-year mini-hiatus between albums, to delivering one of my favorite albums of this year, TBS have shown fans new and old that magic that happens when they bring their collective creative minds to good use to make art. 152’s legacy will likely be remembered as the record that set the band’s tone for their return to glory, and makes its own memorable statement in the band’s storied discography.