The familiar sounds of Nirvana’s Nevermind are wafting out over the PA inside Fuse’s midtown-Manhattan studio, but few of the fresh-faced kids gathered on this April afternoon for a taping of the music-video network’s 7th Avenue Drop seem to recognize the songs. Maybe they’re not old enough to know an album released a full 15 years ago, in 1991. After all, these enthusiastic high-schoolers are here to see Long Island’s Taking Back Sunday, one of the brightest lights in the emo universe. Who listens to emo? People who didn’t exist in 1991.
NEVER MIND: Who listens to emo bands? People who didn’t exist in 1991.
They sure exist now: since 2004, more than 700,000 emo fans have bought a copy of Taking Back Sunday’s second album, Where You Want To Be (Victory). And the band’s controversy-courting frontman, Adam Lazzara, is a constant object of gossip on buzzing Internet message boards — the exclusive domain, as everyone knows, of 15-year-olds. Along with their platinum-selling peers in My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, the five members of TBS offer proof that their shared audience — savvy, tuned-in, and with cash to burn — is one of the fastest-growing in music. These kids don’t need to recognize Nevermind; they’ve got Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and From Under the Cork Tree to call their own.
Still, what’s immediately apparent as Lazzara and his mates, who headline Avalon this Friday, take the stage at Fuse is how much older they look than their fans; bearded guitarist Fred Mascherino, in particular, could be someone’s dad. (In fact, the 31-year-old has two kids at home.) Lazzara sports the tight-fitting clothes and shaggy haircut of a twentysomething East Village hipster, yet when a gaggle of girls sneak on stage for a surprise hug attack, the frontman appears uncomfortable, Old Man Lazzara giving the neighborhood kids their grandpa time. After a bit of banter, the band bash through a set of tunes from Louder Now (Warner Bros.), their brand new major-label debut, and as the title suggests, they do it with volume and speed. But there’s finesse and precision, too — when Mascherino’s guitar pedal misbehaves, it’s cause to redo “Error Operator.” These grown-ups no longer play like the punk kids they used to be.
Where You Want To Be lifted Taking Back Sunday out of the underground scene they’d inhabited since forming (with a slightly different line-up) in 2001. Louder Now is poised to be their breakthrough to the rock mainstream. It certainly sounds up to the task: produced with plenty of alt-rock muscle by Eric Valentine (a veteran of discs by Third Eye Blind and Queens of the Stone Age), the CD is stocked with surging guitar anthems like opener “What’s It Feel like To Be a Ghost?” and “Twenty-Twenty Surgery.”
But with that beefed-up sound comes a pricklier lyrical Lazzara, one who trades in emo’s girl-wrongs-boy narrative for a messier, more-adult version of the same theme. In lead single “MakeDamnSure,” the frontman admits “I just wanna break you down so badly” over crashing guitars that drive his point home in disturbingly vivid detail. It’s a darker, more complicated sentiment than what the kids in the Fuse studio are likely used to mulling over. That represents an improvement: Louder Now is the most powerful album Taking Back Sunday have made so far. But is darker and more complicated where their young fans want them to be?
Taking Back Sunday + Emanuel | May 5 | Avalon, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston | 617.228.6000
On the Web
Taking Back Sunday: http://www.takingbacksunday.com/