The Eternal Summer of Tell All Your Friends
It's midsummer 2003 and we're driving aimlessly around Aberdeen. Kris and Dianne in the front, my scrawny frame claiming the centre seat. Legs bunched, spiked hair nudging the roof, craning to catch every snippet of idle conversation. Technically it's night time, but it's one of those eternal Scottish evenings where the sun never really sets; it just does a 360 and reappears. Peek-a-boo. There is no dusk or dawn, just a stream of endless light radiating from the North Sea.
In the CD slot of the grey Corsa, an album is spinning, the same album that's been spinning for months. If we could have wished any disc to get stuck, this would be it. Sometimes you choose the soundtrack to your summer. And sometimes, a serendipitous malfunction chooses for you. Taking Back Sunday is our jam.
TAKING IT BACK
I don't recall a time before Tell All Your Friends. It was just...always there. Sure, I can scan the album details in iTunes (2002) and learn the recording notes from Wikipedia, but the truth is, none of that stuff matters. Our musical heroes record our favourite albums but we are the ones who shape them as we append indelible memories: a beach bonfire; a rain-lashed road trip; a stolen kiss; a late night water fight.
"So obviously desperate, so desperately obvious."
Time is a forgiving mistress. First we construct a narrative and then we internally reinforce it, rejecting alternate endings until this was the only album that ever mattered in the only year of note, an endless summer where every moment was precious and Tell All Your Friends was always playing in the background.
★ Walking home from the university computer room with the sun rising and Adam Lazzara drowning out the birds chirping
★ Twinning the cars at paintball, doors open as both CD players blast Tell All Your Friends in stereo
★ Punk rock gigs in Glasgow, driving back through crepuscular fog
★ 5am trips to Tesco for red Fanta (emo juice) with that disc spinning ad infinitum
Getting stoned at Ryan's cottage, hanging at The Old Fire Station, on the way to Dr Drake's. Mostly, I remember Tell All Your Friends as my sleeping CD. I'd draw the curtains and sink into bed in my student flat, surrounded by the detritus of a chaotic life. By There's No 'I' In Team, I was gone, enveloped by the inky blackness.
How many times did we listen to that album? It was Kris who got me into it. I'm pretty sure it was Kris who got everyone into it. For my girlfriend's birthday, I asked a bunch of mates to select two of their favourite songs which I compiled into a mixtape. Kris chose a track by Hot Water Music (I think) and You're So Last Summer. June 2002. That was the first time I heard TBS and the rest is airbrushed history.
"And will you tell all your friends you've got your gun to my head?"
There was all sorts on that mixtape, from Pig Destroyer to The Wildhearts, but looking back at it now, there was only one song and that song was the soundtrack to our summer and the next one and the last one and the one after that.
Our parents may bang on about Floyd and our children Swift, but for us, the emo generation (long before the word became corrupted just like all labels), Taking Back Sunday was our youth. They've released other albums and written other great songs (A Decade Under The Influence wouldn't have sounded out of place on TAYF), but Tell All Your Friends is the one, my first true love, ten tracks perfectly sequenced like a double helix. Shuffle them and the magic evaporates.
"Boys like you are a dime a dozen she said."
You hit play and there's a two-second wait before that distorted guitar line fades in, riding on a wave of feedback. Du-du-dun go the lolloping drums and it begins. "So sick, so sick of being tired..."
The call and response vocals; the bitter-sweet lyrics. I could deconstruct the reasons why TAYF endlessly enchants, but I don't want to break the spell. It just works. Despite innumerable listens, I don't even know most of the track names. They're as flawless as the green cover with its washed out freeway but irrelevant to my enjoyment of it. Track eight is The Blue Channel, but I only know because I just checked. In my head it's "The one with the piano".
Every song clocks in at under four minutes. 33 minutes 46 seconds of sonic perfection. Forget reissued bonus tracks The Ballad of Sal Vilanueva and Cute Without the 'E' (acoustic). Nice as they are, they don't count.
Head Club is the closer, its coda the apotheosis of an apotheosis as Adam Lazzara starts yelping "I guess I don't blame you..."
1:24...Here it comes.
"...but I wish that I could"
"I'm sick of writing ev-ray song...about YOU"
I still get chills.
Time can be deceptive and nostalgia a manipulative bitch, but Tell All Your Friends will always be synonymous with late nights, long summers, straw bales and barbecues, and I'll always be that baggy-trousered spiky-haired kid, caught up in the moment and incapable of envisioning a time when I would be heralding that moment while listening to those same ten tracks in the same damn sequence.
Cars fail, friends drift, scenes die and summers pass, but in my head the disc keeps spinning in that grey Corsa as we head past the beach where the tide sucks at the sand and the light – the endless light – floods everything in a warm glow and perhaps we skip stones or go past Tesco for more emo juice, or drop Dianne on Ellon Road, I don't recall and anyway it doesn't matter, before the motor pulls off bound for Torry as Lazzara issues a final plea, his voice steeped in emotion, but it's okay, tomorrow is a new day and we'll probably end up doing it all over again. Don't call my name out your window I'm leaving.