Taking Back Sunday matures with new album

“So what’s gonna happen when the old man goes? Will you embrace chaos or take control?” asks lead vocalist Adam Lazzara on the title track to Taking Back Sunday’s seventh full-length record, “Tidal Wave.” The lyric is reflective of a matured band whose lineup underwent numerous changes after the success of their classic 2002 debut, “Tell All Your Friends.” Now with its original lineup on its fourth record, Taking Back Sunday sounds more confident than ever while maintaining their earnest roots.

As soon as the howling title track smacks you in the jaw with the buzz saw guitars and heart-pounding drums of Bad Religion, bassist Shaun Cooper and drummer Mark McConnell help lift “You Can’t Look Back” beyond a lazy alt-rocker with an airtight, head-nodding rhythm. Lead guitarist John Nolan clashes and trades raw-throated vocals with Lazzara in classic TBS fashion: “I’m not the same man, not since you came in.” Both tracks carry the momentum of the opener, “Death Wolf,” a slow-building but abrasive cut reminiscent of the band’s “Louder Now” days.

Fans yearning for Lazzara and Nolan’s dueling melodies from “Tell All Your Friends” are rewarded with the propulsive “Holy Water.” Meanwhile, the ballad “I Felt It Too” offers a moment of subdued introspection with Lazzara’s weary croon filling much of the empty space: “I felt sick to my stomach/Lord don’t let them die/we were lost in that moment/swallowed us whole.” The song places you in the mind of an observer of the world who is overwhelmed by what they witness.

Upbeat pop-rock charmers like “Fences” and “All Excess” marry radiant string arrangements and keys with inescapable grooves and jangly melodies a la The Cure and Gin Blossoms. It’s not surprising to see some risk taking on their seventh LP, considering that producer Mike Sapone (Mayday Parade, Brand New, Public Enemy) and Taking Back Sunday have worked off and on since the band’s earliest demos.

The loose-fitting post-rock song “We Don’t Go in There” is the weakest track on “Tidal Wave,” requiring a few sips before the indie flavor sets in. Conversely, the straightforward rocker “Call Come Running” claws away at your eardrums with Lazzara’s hearty tenor leading the way on the excavation.

“Tidal Wave” expertly maneuvers in and out of melancholic tones and adrenaline-pumping tempos throughout the record, but maintains the same urgency and earnestness that made the controlled chaos of hits like “MakeDamnSure” and “You Know How I Do” feel so damn good. Lazzara’s vocals are richer and more refined, whether he is the pilot of a jubilant rhythm or the gruff voice of change reverberating over a wall of guitars.

On their seventh effort, Taking Back Sunday wash over their previous three records with a simplistic yet wholesome collection of moods and honest lyricism. After a period of lineup instability during the mid-2000’s, Taking Back Sunday has found a streak of consistency with its original lineup. As a result, the band sounds more resolved than on any of their previous efforts.

Even if every record Taking Back Sunday releases is compared to their earliest material, a record like “Tidal Wave” is a good indicator of what the band is still capable of. The chronic mislabeling of Taking Back Sunday as an emo or pop-punk band can finally be put to rest. They have been a rock band since rhythm guitarist Eddie Reyes founded the band in 1999.