Published Sep 14, 2016There's a lot going on throughout Taking Back Sunday's seventh album, but it'll probably end up being best remembered as their '80s heartland-rock album, on which they decided to channel the likes of Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Bryan Adams.
This is a band that wrote a formula long ago and have pretty much stuck with it, resulting in good, energetic but somewhat prosaic alt-rock in the years following their emotive 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends. The polished sound with a slight edge they've honed since then is plenty recognizable here, but also shaped by some newly tapped influences. The results are hit and miss.
"You Can't Look Back" is an example of TBS embracing both their own past as well as the Americana of 30 years ago, with solid results. You might hear it and think of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer," then reach its triumphant ending and be reminded of the band's own teen-era classics like "Head Club" or "...Slowdance on the Inside." But on other songs, like "Fences," they pull from the side of the '80s we hoped to forget.
Opening cut "Death Wolf" is a must-hear, with ripping verses and a huge chorus to start the album with a double-shot of energy, while "Holy Water" comes the closest to the band's early days, thanks to its earworm of a chorus and intersecting melodies. The soothing, breezy "I Felt It Too" is sure to please fans new and old with its tender harmonies and reassuring words. "Tidal Wave" is the most double-take-worthy cut though, a punk jam that sounds a lot like the Ramones and the Dropkick Murphys. It's pretty hacky, out-of-place and probably shouldn't exist outside a pseudo-political Green Day album, but it's hard not to find it fun.
For the most part, the rest of the album is less head-turning, which that can translate to forgettable. Still, it's about time Taking Back Sunday shook things up, so the high points make Tidal Wave an effort that should please dedicated fans and appease the sceptics somewhat, as well. (Hopeless)