The early 2000s were quite a time for pop-punk and emo. One of the major revolutions was developing in Long Island, NY where bands like The Movielife, Brand New, and Glassjaw perfected a specific brand of suburban post-punk, hardcore, and emo.
One of the biggest bands in this scene was Taking Back Sunday.
In 2002, Taking Back Sunday released Tell All Your Friends, an album that continues to be of my favorites to this day. Influenced by the two-singer punk bands like Fugazi, the defining characteristic of TBS was the give-and-take between John Nolan and Adam Lazzara. This band seemed destined to lead the scene into the mainstream.
However, the band imploded soon after the release of TAYF. In 2003, John Nolan and Shaun Cooper departed to form Straylight Run. Adam Lazzara, Eddie Reyes, and Mark O’Connell stuck around and Fred Mascherino, of The Color Fred, and Matt Rubano joined TBS for the second lineup. The band released a video for “You’re So Last Summer” (a song from Tell All Your Friends) In the video, Nolan and Cooper are absent. Instead, Mascherino, Rubano, and, inexplicably, Flava Flav are integrated into the band. This was the first clue to what was happening. The band was about to change.
I could go on for hours about how great Tell All Your Friends is and how no other Taking Back Sunday album would ever come close. I could argue that Nolan and Cooper were the perfect foils for a largely reactionary Lazzara and without the two of them, an album would be no good. But a lot of this isn’t true as proven by the second release of Taking Back Sunday called Where You Want to Be, released on July 27th, 2004 and the subject of this week’s 10 Years Later.
Where You Want to Be pursues commercial success. Musically, the album is different from TAYF. There are a few acoustic ballads sprinkled with the expected pop-punk tunes. As with all of the great emo bands, Taking Back Sunday wears their emotions on their lyrical sleeves. Lyrics describe situations of disappointment, heartbreak, and anger. While it is hard to know exactly what happened with the break up, songs address a sharp hostility with an eventual solution: releasing albums and moving on.
One defining characteristic of a Taking Back Sunday song is the strength of their choruses. These are the parts where the listener is invited to join in and sing along. These are the parts where the community is formed.
In “A Decade Under the Influence,” one of the singles, Mascherino takes over the secondary vocals. They sing, “Sad, small, sweet, so delicate/ We used to be a dying breed/ I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” The choruses close with “To hell with you and all your friends,” a subtle nod to the title of the debut TBS album.
“The Photograph is Proof (I Know You Know)” was one of their breakthrough songs. It appeared on the Spiderman 2 soundtrack and a whole new audience was exposed to the band. It is almost impossible to not sing along with the “And I know you know, everything / I know you didn’t mean it / I know you didn’t mean it.”
“Bonus Mosh Part II” just invites the fan to take over primary or secondary vocals, depnding on their experiences. With the lyric, “It’s love/ (It’s love)/ Make it hurt/ (I deserve it),” you are either the victim or the victor.
The chorus of “Number Five with a Bullet,” a mostly forgotten song but incredible song, starts with “We’re gonna die like this you know, miserable and old.” We all know how this ends up but it is almost okay as long as we are together.
Several tracks demonstrate the band’s softer side. “New American Classic” and “I Am Fred Astaire” come one after another. The former opens with slow guitar strings. Each chorus in “I Am Fred Astaire” starts with “All tired/ Scream, safe haven” as if the band is showing two sides of themselves.
The album’s closing track “…Slowdance on the Inside” is as soften as TBS can gets. It is a display of slow maturity even though the lyrics express the signature TBS snark. As the song ends and the album comes to a close, the band sings, “Tonight won’t make a difference/ Well tonight won’t make a difference.”
Overall, Where You Want to Be is full of classic emo songs. Each track is an attempt at finding one’s part in the community. It is shared experiences and familiar feelings. It is that sense of community that the emo scene was based on.
In 2010, John Nolan and Shaun Cooper rejoined the band and recreated the “classic” lineup (Mascherino departed in 2007 and was replaced by Matthew Fazzi who was in the band until 2010. Rubano also left in 2010). Two years later, the “classic lineup” toured in support of Tell All Your Friends’ 10th anniversary. Since reforming, they continue to record and release solid albums. No matter what the classic line-up releases, Where You Want to Be will always be my second favorite Taking Back Sunday album (even without Nolan and Cooper’s participation).
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You can listen to the full album on Spotify