Taking Back Sunday taken with new guitarist, album, energy

It's been three years since "Louder Now," and all the Taking Back Sunday fans who have been waiting " tight jeans and heavy eyeliner at the ready " should probably wash their faces off and listen to "New Again," the band's latest.

After a much-needed road rest and a new guitarist, the New York act is showing more musical chemistry than ever. "New Again" features heavy guitar and raw, honest lyrics likely to make even the most emo audiences smile a little.

Taking Back Sunday has suffered snarky criticisms, but bassist Matt Rubano said the New York act has never shied away from writing or playing whatever it feels, even at the expense of critical labels like "emo princes" and "emo survivors," which he said the band takes as backhanded compliments.

"It's like saying you're the king of crap," he said. "We don't identify ourselves by our haircuts."

The catchy, crowd-pleasing anthem "Sink into Me" describes the members' new dynamic: loud and happy to be around each other. Front man Adam Lazzara's gruff vocals details a girl giving the singer the runaround, singing "You're all I see / Sink into me / Sharpen your teeth / Sink into me."

Rubano said "New Again" reflects the a recent excitement and raw energy that has recently returned to the group.

"The theme is the rekindling of a spark that was just flickering for a while," he said. "It's symbolic for us."

 Kindling the spark is new guitarist Matt Fazzi, who joined after Fred Mascherino left for a solo project, The Color Fred. Alluding to Mascherino's departure, Rubano said the band members now actually admire each other and spend less time criticizing and arguing. Since Fazzi joined, Rubano said they have spent more social time together than ever before.

"He is one of my favorite human beings on the planet," Rubano said.

Fazzi's open-mindedness has helped the act grow and experiment musically, Rubano said. Taking Back Sunday's sound has evolved significantly since 2002's "Tell All Your Friends," an angst-filled album that served as that year's soundtrack for teen make-out sessions with black T-shirted boys who cry more than their girlfriends.

"We were empowered by the idea that it was totally up to us what Taking Back Sunday sounds like," Rubano said. "We're taking steps forwards to define what that is."

One of the most talked-about subjects when it comes to the band is the "old Taking Back Sunday" versus the "new Taking Back Sunday" debate, which is waged on the Internet on fan sites and forums. Rubano is quick to point out that the group's lineup has changed and the founding members have evolved personally over the years, which affects both the songs and sound.

"We're the Taking Back Sunday of 2009 and the Taking Back Sunday of 2001," he said. "If you really like a band, you're in it for the long haul."

Rubano said the band still regularly performs its old hits, noting that "New Again" was written with the same instincts.

"If you want to hear 'Tell All Your Friends,' just press play," he said.

Taking Back Sunday with Anberlin and Envy on the Coast perform at 8 p.m. Friday at Diamond Ballroom, 8001 S. Eastern. "Jamie Birdwell

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