Long Island rockers get their mojo back.
(Hopeless)
8/10

There was much excitement in 2010 when Taking Back Sunday announced that the band would be returning to the ‘Tell All Your Friends’ line-up, with guitarist/vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper rejoining the band. But I found the resulting album to be somewhat underwhelming and overly slick. ‘Taking Back Sunday’ seemed to lack some of the fizz and excitement of their debut release.
However, the current line-up has now been active for a four-year period and this time together, along with the resulting touring, seems to have allowed the band to click and produce some more of the magic that infected ‘Tell All Your Friends.’ ‘Happiness Is,’ their sixth album, sounds like a band revitalised. I suspect that much of that is to do with the fact that they’re no longer on a major label. It’s telling that this record was made over a year-long period without any record label involvement. The last time they did that was when they released their exalted debut.
‘Preface’ is an introduction that sets up what comes next perfectly. The single ‘Flicker, Fade’ explodes out of the speakers before Adam Lazzara’s sweet croon toys with the song dynamics further and then all hell breaks loose with the thundering chorus. If not a song that would have found itself on ‘TAYF,’ it certainly remains in that spirit.
‘Stood A Chance’ has a killer bassline that propels a memorable chorus and a sense of fun and energy that has been lacking recently. ‘All The Way’ is almost ballad-like and features some intricate vocal interplay.
By now the album is fully in its stride and ‘Beat Up Car’ is another stand-out and has an infectious sense of verve. Surprisingly, ‘It Takes More’ is a ballad, yet it does little to derail the freshness of ‘Happiness Is’, and the rumble and crunch of following track ‘They Don’t Have Any Friends’ helps to reinforce the notion that this is a streamlined, hungry TBS and that radio rock excess has been left in the past.
The emotional ‘Better Homes And Gardens’ makes excellent use of the dual vocals the band are renowned for. ‘Like You Do’ is one of TBS’ more conventional numbers, a love song with direct lyrics. The album rounds off with the snappy, light rock of ‘We Were Younger Then’ before closing with the subdued ballad ‘Nothing At All.’
While not a perfect album, ‘Happiness Is’ shows TBS to be back near their best and credit must also go to producers Marc Jacob Hudson (Saves The Day) and Mark Sapone (Brand New) for ensuring the album has the sufficient dynamism without becoming smothered in over-production.
Paul Hagen

Read an interview with the band about the new album in the latest issue (no. 165). Order your copy from anywhere in the world HERE.