There was an awful big deal made when Taking Back Sunday took on new guitarist and backing vocalist Matt Fazzi — which partly explains the choice of the title “New Again” for the band’s newest album. But frankly the only major difference between this effort and the New York hard-rockers’ major label debut, 2006’s “Louder Now,” is that this one boasts “Sink In Your Teeth,” the best damn song Taking Back Sunday has crafted yet.
Lo, many will defend “MakeDamnSure” or “Liar (It Takes One to Know One)” for that title. And each contains the same elements that have allowed Taking Back Sunday to rise from the ranks of post-hardcore niche band to the radio-ready wunderkind it is today: catchy choruses, tight performance, Matt Lazzara’s typical ferocity, pop-punk underpinnings. “Sink In Your Teeth” have the yelping “heys” lacing the crannies where vocals wouldn’t otherwise live, keeping the track driving forward. A rebel yell around the 2:10 may encourages listeners to echo the same response. There’s also something to the guitar riff that hearkens Jane’s Addiction and, with Lazzara’s comfortable range, the comparison isn’t all that off — it is, afterall, a summer of late ’90s reunions.
The title track has Mark O’Connell bursting out the gate with a four-on-the-floor kick drum (and bassist Matt Rubano doubling the beat for that extra umph), switching soon to a heart-rate increasing double-time on the high hat on verse two. Lazzara poses the question, “What are we to do with you?” before roaring into “I am ready to be new again,” a declaration that fits in with Taking Back Sunday’s ever-maturing sound.
The middle track “Summer Man” is only summery in its major chords, as the chug-chugging guitar line brings it to a much darker time. “Swing” is a standout in the contributions of harmony vocalists, echoing the word into some sad oblivion. “Cut Me Up Jenny,” with what sounds like a nod to hair metal in the pre-chorus. “Catholic Knees” is as loud and heavy as this record gets, which is sure to please longtime fans more than TBS new audience. “Carpathia” is equally nasty, featuring a grotesque synth line and a fist-pumping tempo.
Closer “Everything Must Go” is the second closest the band gets to a ballad, with a slower tempo and penchant vulnerability. However, when Lazzara jumps up to a higher octave, hissing rabid retorts to his lover, this is anything but sweet.
“Where My Mouth Is” starts out like a hit ballad single should, with a pretty, jangly riff (who invited Edge to play with these guys?) and Lazarra’s voice sadly reporting his lyrics, with the big chorus right around the corner. “See, I recall quite perfectly/ who I was both before and after the drugs… now I’m staring at the floor/ where my second life just ended…I had it all… but I threw it away/ just to prove that I could,” he sings, with regret, unclear if the words sprung from a personal experience or from fiction. What’s true is that Taking Back Sunday have it all — a brand, big tunes, a solid record from front to back, a new, sonically “together” lineup. There’s no need for a second chance when it was done so well on the first time around.