We Can’t Go Back: 15 Years later, Taking Back Sunday’s Third album, Louder Now, Still Rocks.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Louder Now by emo game changers, Taking Back Sunday came out. It feels like it was just yesterday when I downloaded the album from itunes to my ipod Nano and was blaring the 12 songs that make up the record at every chance. Louder Now will always go down as perhaps my all time favorite Taking Back Sunday record. And with good reasoning. From front to back, this album was always a total banger. It’s full of addictively melodic, emo pop anthems that make you want to get up and mosh (or scream). Vocally, Adam was at his peak doing what he does best: bringing metaphoric lyrics to life with his signature emotional hysterics and urgent bouts of desperation. But on Louder Now, it feels decisively more prominent than say, on Where You Want to Be, or Tell All Your Friends. You could say Louder Now is like WYWTB on speed. It was classic TBS delivering classic TBS songs, but with a much higher level of energy, and more of a driving sense of emotion that really got you really headbanging to the music harder and wanting to dive headfirst into the moshpit and rush the stage. It’s easy to see the influence of this album on a lot of modern post hardcore bands.
Looking back on Louder Now 15 years later (holy crap, that’s a long time) I see now how much this album really was so 2006, and a true testimonial to the era. Lyrically, Louder Now is full of enigmas and horrifyingly strange metaphors- the hallmark all those mid 2000s emo bands. The more dramatic, the more bizarre, the bigger the emo hit. Vocally, I loved how Fred made his voice a little more heard this time around, while Adam pushed his hysterics straight to the edge. As you play through the album, things get downright emotional and weird (lyrically) at times. But that was okay. And especially in 2006 when emo, pop punk, and post hardcore were in a dire state of emotional emergency. Bands everywhere were bringing out the gory metaphors and updating their sound to sound more emo. The more emotion, hysterics, and strange antics you could bring to a song, or an album, the better. The weirder your songs were lyrically, the better. While Taking Back Sunday didn’t change their signature style, per se, on Louder Now, they certainly experimented a bit with their sound on this album, and went a little all out, taking more of a cue from bands such as UnderOath, From First to Last, The Used and My Chem than they may have in the past. Were they trying to broaden their audience, break into the post hardcore scene? Who knows. But whatever they were doing, they really perfected themselves as a band on this album. This was their best album, in my opinion. And really, the last real Taking Back Sunday album.
After Louder Now, Taking Back Sunday changed — and not for the better. Fred would leave the band — I’m still not over that — and sadly Adam would tune down the raw angst that the band was known for just a bit. And maybe that’s why Louder Now has a very special place in my heart. Because it was the last album featuring the Taking Back Sunday I grew up with and fell in love with.
When I first heard Louder Now in its entirety, it kind of felt like a rock opera type album. The songs all feel intricately connected to each other in some kind of vague storyline even though there is no definitive storyline that I know of behind the 12 tracks.
But there is this musical journey. Adam opens the album crying out, “What’s it feel like to be a ghost?” And as the album plays on, it’s almost like he becomes this ghost of himself to examine his inner demons, and at the end, he lets the ghost live. Okay, maybe, I’m being way too analytical about things, but the songs always felt connected to one another as opposed to a random group of tracks designed to fill an album. And I think that’s one of the reasons this album also plays out so well. One song leads into the next. You don’t wanna skip songs. This wasn’t the kind of album you bought for one song or two songs, this was album you bought to enjoy the WHOLE listening experience because it was there.
I will never forget the first time I saw the video for “Makedamnsure” on a Fuse TV premiere. It was sometime in the Spring of 2006 and I just remember thinking, damn, that is the coolest, weirdest, and most wtf video I’ve ever seen from a band. It was a very trippy, headspinning, whirlwind of an experience, which kind of sums up the entire album. It’s a trippy, headspinning, whirlwind of an experience. Listening to the album is like being sucked into this funnel of 42 minutes or so of amazing music topped off with crazy energy, emotion, angst; there’s this sense of urgency of wanting to escape the funnel, and get out of the danger zone, but there’s also this sense of being okay with being in the midst of it, too. Few bands have been able to put out truly high energy albums that are also full of dizzying emotion, but Taking Back Sunday really perfected the art of it on Louder Now. And I think that’s why I’m still listening to it all these years later. Because it’s one of those albums that’s truly timeless. Lyrically, the songs are direct, but also obscure. You can interpret them in a 100 different ways and they always rock. They aren’t straight love songs, or straight break up songs. And vocally there’s so much energy and drama and emotion that it just always manages to get me pumped no matter what. And I think bridging that gap of obscure-ish lyrics and high energy is something that no one could ever get sick of. Although, when I watch the videos for “Makedamnsure” and “Liar” I do feel like some of the stuff (the hair and all) is a little classic mid 2000s emo. But it’s okay. After all, the album was released in 2006 and I’m always “an addict for dramatics” especially when awsome music is involved.