Taking Back Sunday - Notes from the Past
Record Label: Victory Records
Release Date: October 30, 2007
Greatest hits albums are rarely a good idea for bands that have been around less than a decade. Even well established groups with plenty of name recognition and core fan bases can see their best-of collections flop. So why Victory Records would think that a compilation of previously-released Taking Back Sunday songs (from only two of their studio albums) would work well is beyond me. Despite this, every release deserves a chance, and Notes from the Past, the album that Victory put out based on the Taking Back Sunday recordings that they own, certainly has its positive traits.
The album starts off on an undoubtedly good note with Tell All Your Friends opener "You Know How I Do" serving as track one. Not a bad move overall; it worked well in this position on the band's first album, and it works well here. The energy and uplifting vibe of the song will have long-time fans remembering why they love the band in the first place, and have new listeners curious for more. The same could be said about other standout tracks, such as "You're So Last Summer," "Bonus Mosh pt. II," and of course "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)." The latter track helped make the band visible on the national level, and with good reason: it's the best song in their catalog. Hearing singer Adam Lazzara and former guitarist/singer John Nolan trading lines on the classic chorus "And will you tell all your friends / You've got your gun to my head / This all was only wishful thinking is a sure indication of how the band got as popular as it did. "Slowdance on the Inside" from Where You Want To Be is another highlight of the compilation. With its building guitars and heartfelt lyrics, it will have new listeners chanting its coda of Tonight won't make a difference in no time.
While songs like this are a welcome addition, it doesn't help that some of the band's weaker tracks are also present. "Ghost Man on Third" and "One-Eighty By Summer" certainly aren't greatest-hits material, and they don't do much for the flow of the album. Highlights from the band's two Victory albums have been left out as well, like "There's No 'I' in Team" from Tell All Your Friends and "Set Phasers to Stun" and "New American Classic" from Where You Want to Be. The two "footnotes," as they're listed on the packaging, are two b-sides, one from the sessions of each studio album. But the Tell All Your Friends selection, "The Ballad of Sal Villaneuva," has been released time and time again on reissues of that album, and most fans of the band will already be familiar with it. "Your Own Disaster '04" is a nice finisher to the compilation, though it too has already been released on international versions of Where You Want to Be and the soundtrack to the movie Elektra. So for fans who have already found these rarities, there's no real incentive to buy. As far as audio quality, the tracks don't even sound as though they've been remastered, or been given any effort to sound better than their original releases.
Fans curious to see how the album has been packaged will be relieved to know that this is another area where they won't be missing out by skipping this one. The liner notes consist of a picture of power lines, a picture of a car, and lyrics to eleven of the twelve songs (the lyrics to "Your Own Disaster '04" are inexplicably missing). There are no pictures of the band itself, no comments from any of its members, and nothing worth the average price of an album these days. The free twelve song sampler with songs from other Victory bands is a nice touch, though. Even if the lineup of bands such as Aiden and Silverstein leaves much to be desired, its the thought that counts, and many music fans could discover a song or a band that appeals to them.
Overall, Notes from the Past is a let down not only because of what it is, but what it could have been with a track listing more representative of the band's stronger material. Victory's effort to sum up Taking Back Sunday's years with them isn't terrible, but anyone with the first two albums and a CD burner can likely do better.