Reviewed by Mark Plummer

I feel quite brave admitting this, but I’ve never been a Taking Back Sunday fan. Sure A Decade Under The Influence is a pretty rad tune, but I’ve never got the fuss over them; until now. These Long Island veterans have finally opened my eyes, and I can imagine they’ll open a few more along the way.

After an interesting introduction that shows off a string quartet, Flicker, Fade announces itself. Feeling quite nostalgic, the acoustic guitar through the verses is almost Goo Goo Dolls-esque; light and not overpowering, allowing the vocals to take centre stage. Whilst the chorus holds a lot of the brute strength, it’s the verses and bridge that make a firm impression. The vocals may be soaring high with power, but the smooth string ensemble during the bridge has subtle layers that gradually help to bring this song round full canter.

Following this, Stood A Chance couldn’t be more different: very bright and lighthearted, it swiftly sweeps from verses to the chorus, where a nifty lead guitar lick unassumingly glues this track together. Coupled with a strong, thumping drum line and a presence from the bass that, whilst not in-your-face, still manages to project power and this is a fantastic little number.

The minor key seems to hit hard from here on in as the tracks roll by, but what appears to stick out above others, is just how far forward in the mix the drums seem to be placed. Rather than the usual feeling of discard and being ‘out-the-way’, they take a more prominent role and offer great entertainment value as they pan their way across the album here and there.

It Takes More offers up some trademark vocal work, as the lines meander their way towards the end of this track, interspersing themselves and giving the song some form of ordered chaos. Whilst Happiness Is does have a tendency to grow maybe a little complacent at times, tracks like They Don’t Have Any Friends and Like You Do prove imperative to how this release manages to swerve around some potential lulls and keep itself going strong. Whilst the majority of tracks are dark and brooding, the vocals let off passionate screams and shouts in bunches, providing more flexibility and range, whilst keeping things interesting and full flavored.

What is most impressive is the quality of the production; six albums in, and it would be all to easy to fall into an overproduced release that smothers all of the dynamics that a band like TBS require. Instead, it’s crisp yet feels raw enough to offer the power that the band thrive on. The vocals are clearly mature and have grown with the music to produce a very complete release, whilst the instrumentation and songwriting has still proven itself as strong, right to the last note.

4½ out of 5

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