Review: “Tell All Your Friends” by Taking Back Sunday

I don’t like to use the word ‘classic’ when describing an album that was released in the 2002, but there is really no other record to come to mind that was so important to a certain scene that Taking Back Sunday’s full length debut Tell All Your Friends. To fully understand the importance of this record to the punk scene, you will have to go back to a time in the late 90s and the first few years of the new millennium. Mainstream hard rock had been infused with hip-hop for a few years thanks to groups like Limp Bizkit and Korn, and grown extremely stale. Groups like The White Stripes and The Strokes were bringing a simplicity back to rock n roll with an heavy emphasis on style and retro flair. But what about punk? Green Day had went the pop route before going on hiatus, leaving Blink 182 the keys to the proverbial kingdom of mainstream success.

Emerging from the depths of independence, a new Do It Yourself movement was taking shape. Bands that didn’t rely on toilet humor like Blink 182 or Sum 41. Out from that movement came Taking Back Sunday.

The word ’emo’ gets loosely thrown around when some describe Taking Back Sunday, and while most of (if not all) the songs on Tell All Your Friends are about unrequited love, nasty break-ups, and the ‘bro’s before hoes’ mentality, they didn’t rely on the visual aesthetics of the emo sub-genre. They didn’t clothed themselves in tight black sweaters and eye liner, and when they sang about depression or angst, it was told from a realistic perspective. Taking Back Sunday didn’t glamorize being emotional and sensitive, instead they romanticized growing up and learning from the mistakes that one makes through adolescence.

That aspect of being young, naive, and heartbroken, is the appeal that makes Tell All Your Friends stand out among other acts of the same sub-genre. Each song on the album seems to tell the same story of betrayal and angst, but in a way where it sounds like the band is your best friend sharing his journal with you in hopes to make you feel better about your own relationship issues.

The genuine honest delivery within each and every song is a pleasure to listen to even when some of the songs flirt with being somewhat grating. No, the album isn’t exactly a perfect album, There are some questionable production decisions (like the borderline cheesey synthetic keyboard strings on the opening of Great Romances of The 20th Century) and the order of the track listing gives the effect that some of the songs sound nearly identical. But even with those minor issues, they are endearing in such a way that they are forgivable in the grand scheme of things. Taking Back Sunday were a group of young men that were more than just a gang of musicians making music that other young individuals could relate to, they were good friends creating music that spoke to themselves just as much as the listener, and enjoyed doing it.

Despite being on an indie label and not having much in the way of radio success, Tell All Your Friends managed to strike a chord with the scene and still today, it’s often cited as one of the more important punk records of the decade and may have single handedly cause the ’emo’ scene break into the mainstream, giving many other bands of the genre a chance at their own success.

Taking Back Sunday remained one of the most influential punk bands throughout the first decade of the millennium despite a few line-up changes, singing to a major label,  and a more commercial evolution of their sound. With each release, they managed to expand their sound, going slightly heavier with Where You Want To Be, polished and ambitious with Louder Now, and borderline pop with New Again, only to regroup with the original line-up for their self-titled record, as well as a more mature selection with their latest Happiness Is (reviewed here a few months ago). Regardless of shifts in style and line-ups, the band has never really went back to their punk emo roots and to be honest, that’s been a good move. The authenticity of an inexperienced band can not and should not be emulated. Tell All Your Friends for all intents and purposes IS a classic album.

I may have been a little long in the tooth to be part of their main demographic to relate my own relationship issues with it, and it may not even be my favorite Taking Back Sunday record, but there is no denying it’s influence and importance to the genre and mainstream punk rock in general. If you are looking for punk that’s a more intelligent than Blink 182, more sensitive than My Chemical Romance, but far more edgier than Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends is a mighty fine place to start. It’s beginning of an interesting journey for this band, and a well crafted punk album that just might be one of this generation’s first classic albums, that should be in everyone’s collection.

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Aaron The Audiophile

Son, brother, uncle, musician. I enjoy music of all genres, shapes and sizes, preferably the good kind.

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