It’s safe to say that most Taking Back Sunday fans were shocked when guitarist/vocalist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper abruptly left a band that had just began its ascent into popularity. Tell All Your Friends had certainly made its mark, drawing in a strong but diverse group of fans and alluding to great things for the future. While TBS took a route that was filled with commercial success and riddled with albums that were watered down with bland instrumentation and even blander lyrics, Straylight Run have created a slew of catchy and intelligent releases. About Time is the culmination of Straylight Run’s career, as it is their last release before they called an indefinite hiatus. It’s certainly not a bad EP to go out on at all as pulsating bass and pounding drums propel these excellent four songs forward, lead by Nolan’s passionate vocals and lyricism. It would seem like Nolan’s heart-on-sleeve and somewhat melodramatic lyrics would tire after the first couple albums, but the sincerity he possesses here allows for the piano-rock present to sound anything but bland.
While Nolan’s everyman style of singing isn’t for everyone, it intertwines perfectly with quietly-intoned verses and shouted choruses. Nolan has a knack for storytelling through his lyrics that are always non-specific enough to be relatable to most listeners. It’s hard not to sing along and feel something in your gut as Nolan rattles off his personal struggle with his past in “I’m Through With the Past (But the Past Isn’t Through With Me)”:
“In those days, I was a train wreck.
I was lost in a sea of alcohol, irony, and unbridled self pity.
There were so many words I had to write,
Confessions on my mind.
I designed them and delivered them with reckless abandon.
My tightly coiled, regressed, frustrated past fading fast.
I was constantly exploding,
I was constantly screaming.
The days moved slow and the nights dissolved into a thickening haze.
Where I spoke with a tongue that wasn’t mine to faces I couldn’t recognize.”
His ability to craft strong lyrics into catchy song structures has always been what has made Straylight Run viable as a band, but the rhythm section has stepped up quite a bit. Shaun Cooper’s bass is not only audible, but drives the music and gives it quite a bit of urgency; consequently, drummer Will Noon ups the ante as well, providing a very energetic performance for About Time. This is showcased in “Don’t Count Me Out”, as the bass and drums guide Nolan’s spidery piano and infectious but simple chorus. “Mile After Mile” ends the EP with a lush acoustic flourish, but Straylight Run have not transitioned more naturally from loud and angry to quiet and introspective. While there isn’t a weak song on About Time, there are some obviously unintentional lulls in “The Great Compromise” which show the chinks in the band’s collective armor. All in all, it truly is a strong showing for a band that has created some passionate and incredibly organic songs in the past. It just unfortunately feels like this swan song should have been a full-length endeavor, as this EP leaves the listener wanting just a bit more of Nolan’s dark lyricism to round out the experience. Here’s to hoping that musical differences force Taking Back Sunday to faction off once more, so that Straylight Run may continue on the fine path they have created for themselves here.
1. I’m Through With the Past (But the Past Isn’t Through With Me)
2. The Great Compromise
3. Don’t Count Me Out
4. Mile After Mile