Taking Back Sunday

Louder Now

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years or so, you know all about the near-end of Taking Back Sunday and the subsequent splintering of the band, with vocalist/guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper starting up Straylight Run. But what you may not know about is the other band who were pulled apart from this whole mess: massively underrated Philadelphia emo-rock act Breaking Pangaea. BP drummer Will Noon became a member of Camp Straylight, and vocalist/guitarist Fred Mascherino was recruited by TBS. And while 2004’s Where You Want To Be marked Mascherino’s first time as a debutante, Louder Now is easily his coming-out party, as it’s rather obvious after only a few spins that he is now the band’s dominant songwriting voice.

Of course, that’s not to say the voices of TBS’ other four members-vocalist Adam Lazzara, guitarist Eddie Reyes, bassist Matt Rubano and drummer Mark O’Connell-aren’t heard anymore. Louder Now’s first single, “MakeDamnSure,” reeks of the slow-burn musical aesthetics that made TBS a household name, and the acoustic ballad “Divine Intervention” (while sounding sorta like Brand New’s quieter moments) will easily take the place of Want To Be’s “New American Classic” as your new favorite slow dance. But for the most part, Mascherino’s more mature writing style shines through. The 6/8 rocker “Up Against (Blackout)” sounds like an unreleased Breaking Pangaea song; the album’s sludgy closer, “I’ll Let You Live,” recalls BP’s 11-and-a-half-minute “Turning”; and the lyrics to the chorus of “My Blue Heaven” are actually lifted directly from BP’s “Wedding Dress.” Ironically, they also inspire some of Lazzara’s most powerful and passionate vocals on the record.

As for the lyrics, Lazzara’s—while tending to be more narrative than the last time out—are just as hit-and-miss here as on prior albums. For every gem, like the Police-influenced “Liar (It Takes One To Know One)”—hands down, the best song on Louder Now—there’s the verbal filler of “Twenty-Twenty Surgery” or “Miami,” both of which suffer from “Let’s repeat the title of the song over and over for the chorus” syndrome. (“Miami” gets two strikes against it from the horribly out-of-place Eddie Van Halen guitar theatrics thrown into the middle.) Midtempo tracks like these are where the record falters, and it’s only more obvious when the band go both-guns-blazing on “Spin” (which sounds like a more straightforward Circa Survive on speed) or “Error Operator” (re-recorded from the Fantastic Four soundtrack). TBS are spot-on when they floor it or put it in park; it’s the sputtering along in-between that hurts the record.

But even though TBS haven’t mastered the art of the middle ground, they still have taken immense leaps forward musically on their third album. People may wonder what the band would sound like at this point if Mascherino had never replaced Nolan; those people are the music-fan equivalent of those who enter college, only to come back to every high-school football game the following fall to relive their “glory years,” simply because they’re too afraid to expand their horizons. Taking Back Sunday should be commended, not for just choosing not to rehash their older work, but for truly trying to branch out artistically—and succeeding most of the time.

Breaking Pangaea’s A Cannon To A Whisper
Brand New’s Deja Entendu
Taking Back Sunday’s Where You Want To Be

Warner Bros.

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