Last month I had the pleasure of seeing Thursday and Taking Back Sunday perform in Portland, Oregon at the Roseland Theater. Thursday was (and is) touring in support of their April 2011 release “No Devolución,” and Taking Back Sunday (TBS) was promoting the June 28th release of their new self-titled album. But more important than the new TBS album, the tour was the first time since 2003 that the “original line-up,” the line-up that recorded the band’s first full-length album, “Tell All Your Friends,” toured the U.S. since 2003.
The show, which featured Adam Lazzara and John Nolan interacting not only as band mates but reunited friends, also featured more material off the band’s debut album than any other recording. The five songs (Bike Scene, Great Romances of the 20st Century, Ghost Man on Third, Timberwolves at New Jersey and You’re So Last Summer) threw the 21+ side of the venue, filled with twenty-something former emo kids squeezing their beer-bellies into undersized, ten year-old band t-shirts, into an almost dangerous pandemonium and left the all-ages side confused about whether they were hearing old or new songs. But it left me wondering, how that the original album, almost nine years after I first heard “Great Romances of the 20th Century,” hold up in the grand scheme of music.
Right off the bat, it’s easy to say that “Tell All Your Friends” remains a well-produced album. Sal Villanueva produced some of the great albums of the early 2000’s and while the fact that he was working with some great bands cannot be discounted, Villanueva work made “Tell All Your Friends,” among other albums, sound more like major label productions than the small label, debut albums that many of the albums he worked on, were.
The first noticeable issue with the album is continuity. While tracks eight through 10 feel like they belong together, tracks one and two, “You Know How I Do” and “Bike Scene,” respectively, feel like a departure from the rest of the album. And to make matters worse, track one, despite having one of the best album introductions in pop-punk, never really gets off the ground, seeming to need to force the intensity and emotion of the rest of the album. Lucky, after a stumble out of the gate, and a second track that, while a great song, doesn’t fit the rest of the album, the rest of the album finds it’s footing and surges forward.
From the opening, simple chord progression and out-of-breath opening two-liner from lead-singer Lazzara in the album’s third track “Cute Without the ‘E” (Cut From the Team)” to the vocal pile-up at the end of “Head Club” to finish the album, “Tell All Your Friends” rests only long enough to allow the listener to catch his or her breath.
Throughout the album, the band builds chaotic bridges that result in breakdown-esque resolutions, a seeming nod to the strong hardcore scene on Long Island and keep the album from falling into the rut of overused chords simple song structures that would be the only memorable characteristic of many post- “Tell All Your Friends” TBS records.
The entire album is fast paced and gets under the skin of the listener. Even the brooding, slow “Ghost Man on Third” has a strong downbeat that pulls the listener in and seems to live in the listener’s chest. The song also provides the foundation for the second half of the album that surges ahead a breakneck speed, reminiscent of driving on the New Jersey Turnpike.
“Tell All Your Friends” is an albums that flows together without forcing the issue with seemless tracks. Each track stands as it’s own strong piece of work, but together the entire album, and particularly the final 8 tracks stands as some of the best 33-minutes of music produced under during the emo/pop-punk era.