Review Summary: A breathtaking album by a band who have developed in leaps and bounds, held back only by the overly sombre mood.
To the average listener, Brand New may seem like your average band the ''emo'' explosion has produced. This accusation is somewhat true aswell, their sophmore album ''Deja Entendu'' being filled with Pete Wentz-esque on liners, or their debut album ''Your Favourite Weapon'' hardly being a world away from ''The Academy Is...'' or any number of bands from the ''scene''. This is not to say these albums were bad, far from it, they are (in particular ''Deja Entendu'') perhaps the rarest examples of credibility in a genre lauded for its emptiness. But amongst the ocasionally cringe-worthy lyrics and tounge twisiting song titles, there was always a sense that Brand New were capable of something much more. For every instance of cliched self loathing, there was a Smiths reference or an atmospheric opening, shown in the track ''Tautou''. Brand New could always do better, and they did.
''The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me'' is, quite frankly, the best music this band has ever made. They have evolved, to the point where the much prasied transition between their first two albums seems trivial, and they're now a band that demands to be taken seriously.
Opening track ''Sowing Season (Yeah)'' introduces us, building up slowly with just guitar and vocals until the band explodes through the speakers. Jesse's cries of a simple ''yeah'' convey much more emotion than any pun-laden chorus could achieve, the minute long opening sequence up perhaps alienating to those expecting something more in the vein of Brand New's contemparies. The band has also benefitted from a lyrical shift, ''Millstone'' succesfully demonstrating this with lines such as ''I used to pray that God was listening, I used to make my parents proud, I was the glue that kept my friends together, Now they don't talk and we don't go out'', a simple yet insightful account of Jesse Lacey's growth as a lyricist. Amongst all the change and growth, there is one thign to say: older fans will still like. That is, so long as you're not expecting an album of ''Jude Laws...'', ''Sic Transits...'' or ''The Quiet Things...''. The song closest to a ''hit'' on this album (although certainly not contrived in any way) would be ''Jesus'' (sometimes reffered to as Jesus Christ''), a slower paced song with a simple guitar line, but still beign a song of beauty, using biblical imagery to great affect. Following track ''Deguasser'' is more in the mold of the opening pair of songs, bass player Garret Tierney providing a muscular bass line on which the band builds, the crowd chants of ''take apart your head'' leading up to a heavier chorus. However, the undoubted highlight on this album, is, for me, Limousine, somewhat the centrepeice of the album, a song that is effectively the epitome of what Brand New are today. Starting with a slow, down-beat acoustic intro, this song (dealing with the death of a 7 year old drink drive victim) temporarily descends into chaos, with feedback galore, before slipping into a more upbeat, acoustic passage, which includes my favourite lyric on the whole album (''I saw a sad messiah, he said I died for you one time but never again''). The crux of this song, is however, in the finale, starting somewhere around the 3 mintue mark all the way up until the songs ending at 7:42. The refrain of ''I love you so much, Do me a favour baby don't reply, 'cause I can dish it out but I can't take it'' repeats over and over, eventually with another vocal line being repeated underneath. When the song breaks out of this cycle of emotional build up, climaxed with the simultaneous uttering of ''I can't take it'' and ''I should be laughing right now'', the band quickly displays their dense, ''heavy'' rock sound before the song creeps away with a haunting acoustic guitar solliloquiy. Truely the highlight, this song is awesome.
The rockier following of ''You Won't Know'' sticks to form, the band appearing to be channeling Bleach-era Nirvana with their intense musical outpouring. The instrumental track of ''Welcome to Bangkok'' succesfully completes the centeral trio of tracks, building up beautifully to a raging apex, complete with a heavy, hypnotising drum beat and Jesse screaming into his guitar pick up. Of all the tracks on here, ''Not The Sun'' is most reminiscent of old Brand New, the most immediately catchy song on here, with a bouncing bass line in the verses. ''Luca'' is similar to ''limousine'', perhaps a little too similar upon first listen, although its more condensed structure and vicious climax would lead me to suggest this is somewhat of a ''Limousine'' on steroids, replacing the former tracks beautiful sadness with a more haunting atmosphere.
The second instrumental, ''Untitled'' is another great moment, stylistically similar to a band like Sigur Ros (except a lot shorter in song length), acting as an effective interlude (although its close proximity to ''Welcome To Bangkok is admitadely annoying at first). Penultimate track ''The Archers Bows Have Broken'' is a more conventional song, with a poudning drum beat from Brain Lane driving the song forward, with lyrics like ''You're beating with a book everyone that book told you to love'' perhaps hinting at dissapointment in some aspects of religion. The final song, ''Handcuffs'' (lyrics by Vinnie Accardi not Jesse Lacey) is a soft, calming ending to the album, the song's calm disposition (it even includes violins) being contrasted with harsh lyrics such as ''I'd drown all these crying babies if Ik new that their mothers wouldn't cry''.
Overall, this is the sound of a band on the up. Ditching some of their former immature cliched habits, Brand New have once again lept ahead of the game with an album spanning a wide range of influences, with fragments of bands ranging from Neutral Milk Hotel to Nirvana clearly impacting on the soudn and style of this album. Although some songs such as ''Not The Sun'' may not perfectly fit the sound of this album, they've still refined their ''traditional'' songs to reflect their artistic growth. The only real criticism of this album is that sometimes, the mood is overly downbeat, and the mood tends to be quite sombre throughout. Perhaps their next album will allow them to touch upon lighter moods with their new found artistic ability, but for the time being this wonderfullly sorrowful album is quite simply excellent.
You Won't Know
Welcome to Bangkok
The Archers Bows Have Broken