Monday Motivation: Taking Back Sunday

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

Steinbeck’s The Catcher in the Rye is a timeless piece of American literature that has no doubt influenced generations of people. To this day there are schools all over the country assigning students to read the story of Holden Caufield, and in places where it is not considered required reading it is still being discovered by people searching for something that understands feelings of teenage angst and alienation. It would be easy for most to spend hours debating the best passages from the book, but as I was listening to Tidal Wave, the latest album from Long Island based rock band Taking Back Sunday, one quote in particular came to mind:

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

Thinking back to the band’s landmark debut album, Tell All Your Friends, it’s hard to believe how far Taking Back Sunday have come. That record, which was lyrically born from heartache, angst, alienation, and the feeling of never being quite good enough, introduced Taking Back Sunday to the world as a group of passionate young men unsure of their place in the world. The use of violent imagery and brash honesty helped to emphasize their willingness to do anything in their power to find somewhere they could call home, despite the fact they seemingly had no idea what such a place would look like.

I was fourteen when Tell All Your Friends was released, and like countless youth across the globe I found myself feeling a connection to the band’s longing for peace and stability in this often turbulent world. I did not completely grasp all the stories of heartache or how they had unfolded, but I (thought I) knew the feeling of being brokenhearted enough to appreciate the sentiment of their lyricism. So much so, in fact, that I could often by found scribbling my favorite over-emotional lyrics onto notebook covers during class or referencing various song titles with a customized screen name on the once popular social networking site known as MySpace. For myself and others like me there had never been enough band that had so completely and uniquely captured the feeling of youthful discomfort as Taking Back Sunday, and as a result we became devoted followers of their message who would flock to shows far and wide to sing-a-long with our newfound heroes.

Time passed, and with each new album Taking Back Sunday continued to evolve without fully abandoning the concepts and sound that initially launched their career. The band documented new struggles with the same one of a kind perspective that had helped set their adolescent problems apart, but the wildfire of hype for each new creation was nothing like the first wave of praise the band had received. Some would claim Taking Back Sunday had a problem developing their sound in a way that was continually interesting, while others felt the decision to focus on problems beyond angst and bad relationships caused the band to lose some intangible edge. I never agreed with these critiques myself, but I did feel the band struggled to maintain the forward momentum of their first two records as the third, fourth, and fifth were shared with the world.

Then came Tidal Wave, which I was fortunate enough to hear for the first time about a month ago. It only took about three songs off the new record for me to realize that Taking Back Sunday had finally reached whatever creative pinnacle they had been striving towards since the release of ‘Tell All Your Friends.’ The boys who were willing to die as long as they could first prove themselves as gentleman have grown into the men who have willingly sacrificed their freedom for a life spent connecting with people all over the globe through their art. What they were once willing to die for has become the reason they continue living, and everyone – from the band to their fans – is better off as a result.

The thing no one ever tells you about growing up is how the loss of naivety through experience will impact the way you view every aspect of your life. The big things that once felt so important often take a backseat to simpler concepts like family and self-acceptance when one finally has a clear grasp of the finality of death. Whether realized through your own skirmishes or the struggles of those around you, most people do not fully appreciate the futility of life until they’ve felt the loss of one. Even then, finding how to push forward when you know full well you too will one day expire takes an immeasurable amount of strength that billions around the globe struggle to find on a daily basis. It’s a tough truth, but one that must be accepted in order to move forward, and you must move forward. If not, you are as good as dead.

This, and other ideas related to the constant passing of time and our inability to stop or slow it are what makes Tidal Wave something truly spectacular. Taking Back Sunday has created an album that can and will stand alongside Tom Petty’s Wildflowers and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA as albums that perfectly capture the relentless enthusiasm of the human spirit. It’s the realization of what the group has been working toward for the better part of two decades, and it marks an ever-so-slight pivot in sound that should help the band to engage a larger share of the modern rock audience than their previous albums. 

I believe Tidal Wave is the album Taking Back Sunday was put on this Earth to make, and hearing it gives me the strength to keep working towards my own goals. I might not know where I am headed, but I know I am doing what my soul tells me I need to be doing, and that’s good enough for now.

James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records (RIP). Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.