With a roster rearrangement that tore the band in half, the fact
that Taking Back Sunday is even still together is a wonder. All
gossip and “he-said-she-said” aside, the departure of
members Shaun Cooper and John Nolan made fans and critics alike
wonder what the group would be capable of on their second release,
Where You Want to Be. While the band never fully reassembled, the
signature sound and passion that were hallmarks of their first
release are still in place.

The opening track, “Set Phasers To Stun,” sprints
headlong into fervor with lead singer Adam Lazzara leaping into his
now trademark howl, electric guitar buzzing along in the
background. The song also resonates in its pleading, with
background vocals pleading “Say yes, say yes” as the
song progresses.

As a whole, Where You Want to Be progresses fluidly, a shift in
style that goes alongside the more fervent tempo and mood. This
sort of swaying pace and drag-out emotion pushes songs like
“Number Five With A Bullet” past depressive lyrics and
into sneering defiance. Followed by “Little
Devotional,” one of the album’s only flaws is the
lumping of quick, forceful songs and following them with paired
slow songs. There are no halting moments of silence but there are
temp shifts which prevent the band from keeping the same fervent
pace that their peers — The Hives, The Strokes —
achieve.

Where Taking Back Sunday’s first album, Tell All Your
Friends, was the “bleeding on your shirt” emo record of
the millennium, Where You Want to Be goes for — and delivers
— a rock aesthetic. The sensitive, anguished lyrics are still
there, however. The difference now is that the words are surrounded
by the hulking figures of hard guitar, bass and drum tracks, like a
late-night confrontation with an ex instead of running and hiding
in the corner with your notebook and pen.

Where You Want to Be is a solid effort that shows that Taking
Back Sunday are not stuck in the genre of sad bastard music.
Instead, their latest effort is a solid push towards an edgy sound
that allows the music to be appreciated just as much as the lyrics.
If fans save Where You Want to Be for the day-after-breakup haze,
they’ll miss the point: Taking Back Sunday have crafted a
well-rounded, propulsive rock album.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars.

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