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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