05.05.06 @ Avalon, Boston, MA
In the past, a Taking Back Sunday show sounded so god-awful that it had to be judged on the full experience. Crowd bonding, scream-a-longs and mic-swinging theatrics covered up Adam Lazzara’s notoriously off-key caterwauling quite nicely, and as long as a concertgoer didn’t close his or her eyes and listen to the distortion and yelps coming from the speaker, the show was thoroughly enjoyable. But that era appears to be history. On the Boston stop of the band’s first tour in support of Louder Now, Lazzara’s vocals sounded clear and on key. He had a happier, decidedly less emo presence onstage, strutting, swinging and occasionally even smiling. What the hell happened?
Simple- Lazzara and his bandmates grew up.
After four years of scenester drama and broken hearts, Taking Back Sunday have aged from an emo band into a more mature, well-rounded rock band. The Louder Now tour reflected a band that has transitioned smoothly into the mainstream and developed a new focus on musicianship. Old favorites like “Great Romances of the 20th Century” were fine-tuned and turned-up; new songs like “What’s It Feel Like to Be a Ghost” were appropriately focused and played to the band’s strengths. Breakthrough single “A Decade Under the Influence” slowly built up to an exhilarating finale and “Timberwolves At New Jersey” plunged into beautifully orchestrated chaos.
An acoustic, mellowed out intro to “You Know How I Do,” however, wasn’t as well received. The opening track to 2002’s Tell All Your Friends proved to be untouchable, and the crowd released a collective sigh of relief as the band launched into the rousing, angsty anthem the way it’s meant to be played: loudly, authoritatively, and manically.
And while guitarists Fred Mascherino and Eddie Reyes packed a punch and Lazzara even practiced a bit of restraint, it was Matt Rubano’s thundering bass that stole the show. Underutilized on 2004’s Where You Want to Be, the Grammy-winning bassist has emerged as the band’s driving force by adding dimension to tracks like “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” The crowd couldn’t just hear him play- they could feel it.
As the show came to a close, the crowd surged once more as the familiar chord progression to “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut From the Team)” resonated throughout the club. Years after its release, the scene classic still hasn’t lost its edge. Its biting lyrics and seesawing vocals, along with Lazzara’s embittered delivery, maintain the song’s ageless quality. Polished, tightened and yes, louder, the band has become arena-worthy.
Photo by Ashley Megan
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.