Taking Back Sunday

Louder Now (Warner Bros.)

When you listen to Taking Back Sunday's third album, it's quite clear why the band's fan base consists mainly of adolescents. Like its prone-to-conformity teenage admirers, the Long Island quintet prefers to let outsiders dictate what it sounds like -- and hasn't yet cultivated a unique identity. Whereas producer Lou Giordano helped the outfit craft power-pop-leaning punk bursts on 2004's Where You Want to Be (an emo Buzzcocks?), new producer Eric Valentine chose to gussy up the group's sound with conventional radio-punk polish. While this gloss often makes for a catchy listen (just try to remove the vaguely Kinksian "What's It Feel Like to Be a Ghost" from your mind), what shines through most is how formulaic Now Louder sounds. "MakeDamnSure" soars with the same dramatic, slowed-down denouement as My Chemical Romance's "Helena," the twin-vocal delivery from Adam Lazzara and guitarist Fred Mascherino emerges as faceless angst, and "Liar (It Takes One to Know One)" cops the motor-mouth tempo and verbose accusations of Fall Out Boy. It's all an improvement over Taking Back Sunday's anemic, sub-screamo days, sure -- but still a disappointment in terms of artistic growth and originality.
 
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