Sound — 7
For those fans of Taking Back Sunday's 2002 release "Tell All Your Friends", it should be satisfying to know the alternative rockers have returned to the lineup featured on that debut record. In the process the new eponymous release doesn't stray too far out of the band's comfort zone, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, Taking Back Sunday captures a fairly nice balance between the pop and rock worlds. One could argue there is definitely a stronger pop vibe on the latest album, but the emotionally driven vocals of Adam Lazzara often provide a much-needed edge in any case.
The record kicks off with actually one of the best tracks of the 11, "El Paso". While the tempo isn't necessarily the most energetic at first listen and the verse is stripped down to just percussion and vocals at times, it allows for the larger-than-life, screamed chorus to basically slap you in the face in the best way possible. The arrangement is one of the most unique on the self-titled album and "El Paso" ends up being one of the most aggressive and refreshing offerings. The biggest issue with the record is that the aggressive side of the band does tend to get overshadowed by the pop sensibility on the remaining tracks.
If there's one constant that you'll find on the new album is the presence of big, sing-along choruses. Producer Eric Valentine has put a great emphasis on layered vocals, with Lazzara's harmonies often taking the spotlight. "Faith (When I Let You Down)", "Who Are You Anyway", and "This Is All Now" all feature Taking Back Sunday's chorus crescendos. While the reliable, instantly likable choruses are satisfying, the moments that are truly fantastic are when the band delves into garage rock ("Money (Let It Go)") or perhaps just embraces their inner emo nature ("Call Me In The Morning").
Lyrics — 8
The lyrical content is undoubtedly aided by Lazzara's intense delivery, but even without that ace in the hole there are more than a few intriguing lines on the self-titled release. In "El Paso" you get bizarre lyrics like, "My eyes got sore, oh, those perverts are sick; I have the truth on my tongue; Hadn't know until when; What I wanted to know, whether god was away; Cause I was there as you, you play." At the other end of the spectrum is "This Is All Now" that features content that has an in-your-face message ("I know you mean well; With your ancient code of ethics; Lead by example; Can you imagine Christ hitting a child?"). There are undeniable eye-raising instances in the lyrical content, which does bolster songs that might just be so-so otherwise.
Overall Impression — 7
The self-titled album is enjoyable in many rights, although there is nothing too out of the ordinary happening this time around. A song like "Sad Savior" might start out a bit too much like "Everybody Hurts" in the first few moments, but the band wisely discards any similarities pretty quickly. "El Paso" represents one of the best tracks on the album and in Taking Back Sunday's entire catalog, and that in itself is worthy of note. The record won't necessarily make converts out of anyone who didn't feel it necessary to listen to Taking Back Sunday in the past, but fans should still be satisfied in general.