After listening 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 teenaged 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 band 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 Taking Back Sunday'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 Louder Now sounds.
"MakeDamnSure" soars with the same dramatic, slowed-down denouement as My Chemical Romance's "Helena," and "Liar (It Takes One to Know One)" cops the motor-mouth tempo and verbose accusations of Fall Out Boy. Meanwhile, the twin-vocal delivery from Adam Lazzara and guitarist Fred Mascherino emerges as faceless angst. 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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