Taking Back Sunday have long been a divisive band. From swaths of fans who only ever loved the band’s classic debut, to those who swear by the middle and most commercial era of the band, to those who’ve just hopped on and prefer the band’s newest material — there just doesn’t seem a way to please every group of Taking Back Sunday fans.
Enter Tidal Wave. The funny thing about this album is that while it borrows elements from each previous album, it’s also the most distinct Taking Back Sunday album. The most obvious point of reference is the album’s first single. The title track is a rollicking Ramones-style punk track with one of the most captivating hooks the band’s written in years. The song is a bit of an outlier amongst an album that’s something of an outlier itself in the band’s discography. The rest of the album is far more in the vein of the band’s older material, injected with a bit of Americana/heartland rock influence for good measure.
The back-to-back pairing of “Fences” and “All Excess” is where that influence shines through the most and, a bit unexpectedly, it sounds completely natural. While the two wear the band’s newfound style proudly — with bright acoustic guitars and Petty-flavored riffs — they retain just enough of that Taking Back Sunday signature sound to feel completely at home on an album with songs like “Call Come Running” and “Holy Water.” Both of which harken back to the days of Where You Want to Be. The former is destined to become a crowd favorite at shows, and the latter carries some of the same aggression the band into on that album with its rough chorus. Sure, Adam Lazzara’s vocals might still take a bit to get used to, but once they sink in, it’s a fun shout along.
However, it’s “Death Wolf” that’ll win over fans who miss the unbridled energy of Tell All Your Friends. From its distinctly-theirs riff to its dueling Lazzara/John Nolan tradeoff verses, the song is a modern take on the almost-post-hardcore sound of the band’s debut. I’d also argue it’s one of the weaker tracks on Tidal Wave. Since it’s a reasonably heavy song it feels a bit out of place on this less in-your-face album. It does lend itself to the argument that Tidal Wave is the band’s most diverse album though. And, it stands in sharp contrast to the record’s two ballads. “I Felt It Too” is in the running for the best song this band’s written, a gorgeous and swelling track built around a dreamy bridge. It’s not a song I’d ever expected to hear on a Taking Back Sunday album. Then we come to the piano-driven “I’ll Find a Way to Make It What You Want.” This song, without giving too much away, is strong evidence that these guys still know how to close an album out right.
Even if this album is never canonized the way Tell All Your Friends or Where You Want to Be are — Tidal Wave is special in its own right. Not just for being the one album that might be able to bridge the gap between fans of the different eras of the band, but for being, a really good rock and roll album. And who knows? Maybe in ten years Tidal Wave will be seen as their magnum opus. It’s the most energized the band’s sounded in years and a testament to the band’s ability to keep things fresh seven albums in. And even for a fan of all the Taking Back Sunday’s albums — this one makes the band feel new again.