Taking Back Sunday, the prototypical, slit-the-wrists, screaming, emotional balladeers popular with that guy who steals car hood ornaments for belt buckles, has given the world more reasons to stalk and kill … themselves. With their latest release, Louder Now, TBS prove once again that energetic, over-driven, distorted electric-guitar lines cannot make up for cry-driven vocals, insipid lyrics and forced emotion.

Liner notes inform the attent listener that the tone-deaf “vocals” come from Adam Lazzara and Fred Mascherino. On a casual play of “What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?” or “Liar (It Takes One To Know One),” it becomes clear that the whining, crying, needlessly relayered sound actually comes from hell. It’s safe to say that every song in which a member of TBS sings would be better without the vocals, evidenced in the blatant attempts to cover every word in heavy distortion.

Perhaps these efforts are also meant to cover some of the disturbing meanings latent in the songs. The ever-popular stalker/murder theme is omnipresent, as TBS belts out on “I’ll Let You Live” against chopped electric-guitar, “Don’t test me / There’s no stopping this / I’m gutting you out.” A song too depressed for spacing, “MakeDamnSure,” comes at the listener a little more literally, repeating a chorus of “You won’t ever get too far from me.” This song also fulfills the remedial poetry-class requirement, reminding the listener that red means violence: “Scissor shaped across the bed / you are red … (violent red).”

If energy is the standard that the typical screamo band should be held accountable to, TBS cannot be completely discounted. “Spin” opens with controlled drum taps and piercing feedback only to explode into intensely layered electric guitar speed-archipegiation and raucous percussion white noise. “My Blue Heaven” opens with breathing harmonics and subdued harmonized vocals. “Divine Intervention” employs a silly little xylophone and synthetic whale sounds. These songs pack something extra in their knapsacks, only to be split down the middle by TBS’s cry vocals.

Louder Now is loud for a good reason: No one wants to listen that closely. Anyone with a smile or desire for intellectual movement will want to turn this down.

Taking Back Sunday
Louder Now
Warner Bros.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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