Sound — 8
In the eyes of Taking Back Sunday's members, their latest CD New Again is apparently much more than just their 4th studio album. If you take vocalist Adam Lazzara's word for it, the record marks the start of what feels like a completely new band. With Matt Fazz replacing Fred Mascherino on guitars, the band does have a slight change in its approach but it's far from being dramatic. Fans of Taking Back Sunday should still find a lot of the key elements still present on New Again, namely catchy melodies, skilled riffs, and layered harmonies. The CD is not flawless, but it still is packed with memorable and cleverly arranged songs. Plenty of the focus will likely be upon new guitarist Fazzi and what qualities, good or bad, he is now bringing to Taking Back Sunday. Interestingly enough, there are more than a few times on the CD that Fazzi essentially becomes the highlight. He has an old school rock sensibility to his riff work, which comes through particularly in songs like Lonely, Lonely, Lonely, Swing, and Carpathia. Every single time that Fazzi lays down a hook, it gives the band an edgier feel on the whole. Sunday Catholic Knees isn't the hardest track among the bunch, but it also features some fantastic, deep guitar tones that become Fazzi's trademark by the end of the CD. Taking Back Sunday slips briefly into the emo trap on Capital M, but it's obvious they are getting further and further away from that particular genre. They visit a wide variety of styles and tempos, with the title track being one of the standouts. The closing track Everything Must Go is also one of the best on the CD, and you could go as far to say that this is the epic tune on the tracklist. What starts out with a quiet, moody synth line builds into a poignant, but restrained verse and the eventual big, explosive chorus. Everything Must Go seems like it is tailored fit to be a cinematic theme song, and regardless of whether you consider that a good or bad thing, it's a track that relays plenty of emotion.
Lyrics — 8
Taking Back Sunday's ability to think outside the box has remained strong, with the lyrical content driving that point home. For example, you have to give the band credit for building a song around the theme/title of Sunday Catholic Knees, which although not quite as intriguing as one would hope, is still not your typical rock topic. There is certainly a good deal of introspective and/or emotion-driven themes, but the band usually manages to come up with a variety of metaphors or generally colorful language to hold your attention.
Overall Impression — 8
While there isn't a lot on New Again that pushes the boundaries of what has been done before in rock, there is still a lot to enjoy about the record. Recognition needs to be given to vocalist Adam Lazzara, whose smooth delivery also has the ability to morph into Axl Rose-like cries at a few key moments. New Again bounces between benign, yet hummable pop tunes and distortion-fueled rockers, and newcomer Matt Fazzi's input ensures that Taking Back Sunday should confidently explore their hard rock side a tad more often. Every single time he lays down a riff rather than the usual power chord or two, it increases the energy tenfold and matches the creativity that we usually hear within Lazzara's harmonies.