CD Review of Louder Now by Taking Back Sunday

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Louder Now
starstarstarno starno star Label: Warner Bros. Records
Released: 2006
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Long Island screamo hounds Taking Back Sunday make their major label debut with Louder Now, and the results are quite the mixed bag. The band essentially crystallized the emo genre with 2002’s Tell All Your Friends, thus launching a barrage of largely god-awful rip-off bands – all of whom contributed to making the emo genre among the most hated of the musical landscape. The entire genre exists because of high school kids whose biggest worry in life is whether someone has posted on their MySpace page, but Taking Back Sunday displays some creative chops and a wealth of energy on this topsy-turvy release. This band has some bite.

“What’s It Like to Be a Ghost?” gets the record off to a spirited start and merges seamlessly with the album’s most infectious track, “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” Taking Back Sunday’s accessibility is never in question, as they utilize layered vocals and catchy guitar hooks. The record’s first single, “MakeDamnSure,” is a fan’s delight, containing the signature Taking Back Sunday hooks that make pre-teen girls scream for the hell of it.

But then the middle of the album hits – as does the lull. The band slipshods through utter mediocrity like “My Blue Heaven,” “Twenty-Twenty Surgery,” and “Spin” before hitting the mother load of unbearable acoustic nonsense, “Divine Intervention.” Where on earth did this tune come from? Or better yet, whose idea was it to utilize bells for dramatic effect? Pelt them with blunt objects, please.

Fortunately, the album ends with three solid cuts in “Miami,” “Error: Operator,” and “I’ll Let You Live,” but the rotten stink of the middle section of Louder Now remains. It’s not that Taking Back Sunday really brings a whole lot new to the table, but just like Sevendust in their respective genre, they’re about as good as emo gets. For those interested, this is a good Litmus test band. If you don’t dig these guys, you can give up on the genre on the spot.

Despite the mediocrity, the album sure sounds good from a technical standpoint. Punk producing prodigy Eric Valentine (Good Charlotte) makes sure every song has a shiny enough gloss to buff your car with, but luckily it never reaches the overproduced status of, say, the latest Korn record. The band implements some borderline experimental musical twists, and the quality mix lends itself perfectly.

Taking Back Sunday continue to be at the top of the totem pole in the emo genre. It’s easy to argue that the aforementioned statement is easily accomplished, but these guys do have talent. If you’re in high school or still stuck in high school, this album is worth a listen.

~Bill Clark