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Emo Heroes Taking Back Sunday’s Long-Awaited Return

Taking Back Sunday
Where You Want to Be

If hip-hop is the CNN of the streets, then emo is the InstantMessenger of the suburbs. Taking Back Sunday won a passionate fan baseby understanding this better than most of their overwrought peers. Theband’s debut, 2002’s Tell All Your Friends, was like a teenagewalkie-talkie passed between screamers/songwriters Adam Lazzara andJohn Nolan, burbling with tons of he said/she said chitchat. But aftersome totally emo intramural hanky-panky, Nolan and original bassistShaun Cooper bailed on both the band and the friendship. TBS quicklyincorporated another shouty Long Island dude with glasses (FredMascherino) and took on a whole album’s worth of angst and betrayal.(For Nolan’s side of the story, look for his debut as Straylight Runcoming this fall, also on the WB, er, Victory.)

Nearly every song on Where You Want to Bebegins in the moment just before a fight or a tear-filled breakdown. Onwide-open wailers like “New American Classic” and “This Photograph IsProof (I Know You Know),” Lazzara uses anthemic choruses like15-year-olds use emoticons: as sweeping shorthand placeholders forfeelings too complicated to puzzle out and express. Simplisticsing-alongs like “I know you didn’t mean it” play well on the WarpedTour, when the mic is mostly in the crowd anyway, but they bland outpretty quickly on record. The words of Lazzara’s exes (girlfriends andbandmates) don’t just ring in his ears–he quotes them wholesale: “I’mhere and I heard you: ‘Anyone will do tonight.'”

On the better songs, these fragments, combined withMascherino’s howling punctuation and the band’s schizoid musicianship,blur into a satisfying whole. On the deep cuts, TBS flirts withstylistic and emotional growth (strings, words that are more reflectivethan vindictive), but their bread and butter is still exuberantlyjuvenile pessimism: “A Decade Under the Influence” and “One-Eighty bySummer” burst and bloom as Lazzara ponders the ever-shrinking ETAbetween kiss and kiss-off. It’s powerful stuff and no sophomore slump.But what happens after graduation? Friends forever, right? Right?

Grade: B