Taking Back Sunday are back on the scene

Pride of strong island
By REYAN ALI  |  July 13, 2011

EMO IS A DIRTY WORD Ten years later, it’s impossible to dismiss the impact of Taking Back Sunday’s 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends. 

We've all got soft spots for things that we'd have written off if not for special circumstances. In my case, it's Tell All Your Friends, Taking Back Sunday's 2002 Victory Records debut. As an occasionally angsty teenager, I was never too high on the whole post-2000s emo thing, but something about Tell just clicked. Its punk hooks had real heft, and singer Adam Lazzara's pop histrionics felt genuine. Sure, "The truth/Is you could slit my throat/And with my one last gasping breath/I'd apologize for bleeding on your shirt" is overwrought. But it ably set the stage for the immense chorus of "You're So Last Summer." For a lot of people, just mentioning Tell All Your Friends reignites a bunch of old motifs and memories. For me, nostalgia accounts for half of my affection, whereas the album's raw, naïve tenacity justifies the remainder.

For proof of Tell All Your Friends' importance, consider the hype and excitement that accompanied the spring 2010 announcement that the original line-up of the Long Island band — the five-piece responsible for Tell — had regrouped. Bassist Shaun Cooper and guitarist/vocalist John Nolan were there to see TBS's stock shoot up quickly in the early days, but after Nolan and Lazzara's relationship grew acrimonious and Cooper and Nolan were burnt out by the stress of constant touring, the pair left in 2003.

"Everything was crazy," says Cooper, discussing the act's formative years in a call from Tempe, Arizona. "We really just thought we'd be lucky to get our CD in stores." The bassist chalks up their swift success up to several factors: TBS's internal chemistry, Lazzara's revealing lyrics, the previous success on Victory of like-minded New Jersey quintet Thursday, and running commercials for the record on MTV2, which was then an innovative concept.

After leaving TBS, Cooper and Nolan kick-started the respectable Straylight Run, while multiple players would go on to fill their spots in TBS. Relationships were slowly patched up over the years, but the possibility of the pair returning for something more than a one-off seemed impossible. But by 2009, Straylight Run was doing poorly financially, and the vibe in TBS was again dour. Drummer Mark O'Connell reached out to the missing men in desperation, encouraging them to give the group another shot. With a lot of prodding and contemplation, the possibility became a reality.

The band's reunion occurred in El Paso, Texas. Cooper remembers that first night as "awkward," but after hashing out some issues, it became "great and really therapeutic." The next morning, Taking Back Sunday converged in a nearby studio and wrote "Best Places To Be a Mom," their first song in ages and the third on June's homonymous Warner Bros. CD. It's a decent track, but it sounds nothing like Tell All Your Friends II. Cooper says the band never wanted a sequel, instead aiming for something more "timeless."

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Related: Cool noise, Photos: Taking Back Sunday at the MFA, All emo is local, More more >
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