Taking Back Sunday‘s triumphant return to the music scene is marked by their eighth studio album, 152 This long-awaited release, their first full-length endeavour since 2016, is a nostalgic ode to their roots and the memories of their formative years in North Carolina. The album’s title, a reference to the road connecting Highpoint, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, where the band and their friends used to gather as teenagers, also serves as a recurrent Easter egg across their previous album covers.
Under the skilled production of Tushar Apte, whom the band discovered through a collaboration with renowned DJ Steve Aoki, and expert mixing by Neal Avron (known for his work with Twenty One Pilots and Bleachers), 152 boasts ten tracks that exhibit raw vulnerability and a rejuvenated sense of purpose. These songs were birthed from the band’s reflections during a prolonged hiatus, marked by the uncertainty that enveloped the world and the music industry.
The album opens with “Amphetamine Smiles,” a surprising choice for an opener due to its anthemic qualities, which are more commonly associated with closing tracks. However, this stripped-back and toned-down piece sets the tone for what lies ahead, even as it diverges from the album’s subsequent offerings.
“S’old” follows, a rock-infused anthem that delves into the struggles of adult life. It features heavier drums and more powerful vocals from lead singer Adam Lazzara. “The One,” a personal favourite, begins with stripped-down verses, driven by a heavy bass drum, reminiscent of U2. The beautiful and weighty chorus articulates themes of love and brotherhood, making it a standout track on the album.
“Keep Going” stands out with its distinct sound, starting with acapella ‘woah woahs’ before launching into a fast and heavy verse, evoking early Linkin Park vibes. Though a fun track, it may not rank as the album’s strongest. “I Am The Only One Who Knows You” is a heartrending ballad with introspective lyrics on self-discovery.
“Quit Trying” is a groovy track laden with self-awareness and notable gang vocals in the intro and chorus. “Lightbringer” follows, a fun and uplifting track that reminisces about love and the past. “New Music Friday” kicks off with a robust chorus and builds up with an anthemic bridge and lively outro. This introspective track is an absolute highlight and will resonate with fans of the band’s earlier work.
“Juice 2 Me” tackles moving on from a toxic relationship and the liberation that accompanies it. With a catchy chorus and beautiful harmonies, it’s a strong track, albeit slightly repetitive. The album closes with “The Stranger,” featuring the heaviest vocals. While it may not be the ideal closer, it doesn’t diminish the overall album experience, but does leave it on a somewhat weak note.
Overall, 152 is a tremendous return to form for Taking Back Sunday. Despite a few weaker moments, the album’s high points are nothing short of fantastic. The band’s willingness to explore new sounds and their ability to capture the essence of their past make this album a must-listen for both long-time fans and newcomers. Taking Back Sunday are set to hit Aussie shores in December, where they will play at Good Things Festival alongside Fall Out Boy, Limp Bizkit, Devo and many more.