Review Summary: A huge step up from Brand New's previous release, and a fantastic showcase of lyrical prowess, Deja Entendu is something everyone should give a try.
I think Pop Punk is a very misunderstood genre. It's got its crappy little mainstream bands running about and pretty much everyone hates them. I have only ever heard Fall Out Boy's singles, and although I think one of them is actually sort of cool, I hate the band by proxy. That's just how it goes. There are a few exceptions to this otherwise golden rule, however. My Chemical Romance's last effort, The Black Parade, is likely chief among them. It's okay to like that album, according to us music elitists. Just so long as you hate everything else they've released, whether you've listened to it or not. You can enjoy some of the more recent AFI releases, too. You might even get away with liking DecemberUnderground in some groups. I'd slap you for liking it, but I'm sure most people are more forgiving than I am. Aside from those, however, I can't seem to think of any other pop punk my elitist group of friends would allow you to listen to. The thing is, though, if you delve into the genre you can find some absolute gems. I found a diamond when I discovered Brand New.
Brand New's first release, Your Favourite Weapon, is an album I really can't stand to listen to. It's everything I dislike about pop punk wrapped in a blanket of self pitying lyrics. It's not an awful album but it's really not very good. So for the longest time, I never bothered listening to Deja Entendu. That was a mistake. Deja Entendu is almost nothing like its predecessor. It does away with the annoying 2 chord songs. Jesse Lacey seems to have gotten over his ex girlfriend, too, which was the only bloody thing he could seem to talk about at the start of his career. It even stops abusing the layered vocals, which is one thing you couldn't seem to get away from on Your Favourite Weapon. It still retains the simple riffing its genre is both known and occasionally hated for, but now the guitarists of the band seem to have realized there's more to guitar than palm muted powerchords. It also keeps the trademark Brand New chorus style. Or, should I say, the trademark Taking Back Sunday chorus style. So although it does try to branch away from its genre, its roots are still very clear. The good thing is, unlike Your Favourite Weapon, the pop punk elements of this album actually sound pretty good.
So, what about the new elements Deja Entendu adds to the band's sound? Well, the most immediate thing is lyrics. Jesse Lacey matured a lot for this record, and it shows quite clearly. He's now a master of metaphors, a wizard of wordplay, and I imagine he's better at alliteration than I am. Play Crack The Sky really showcases Lacey's improvements, conjuring up vivid images with it's fantastic metaphors, and pulling at the strings of your heart with its beautiful story. Another key element to the band's newer sound is bassist Garret Tierney, who now suddenly seems to have talent. Instead of simply constantly following the guitars, he now adds a simple but interesting bassline to many of the clean sections of most songs. His tone varies from a soft, warm, bassy boom, best utilized in Sic Transit Gloria, to a crunchy attack, which is most evident in Guernica. The band's lead guitarist, Vincent Accardi, is also starting to come out of his shell, adding cool licks and simple-but-neat arpeggio's over Lacey's chords. His improvements can best be heard in tracks like The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows and Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have To Do Is Die (God, I hate the name of that song). Drummer Brian Lane doesn't seem to have improved, but his drumming was never awful. He holds the rhythm well and he works great with Garret.
Not everything has vastly improved, however. The album still has a few annoying traits passed on to it by its predecessor. The choruses, mostly. Every chorus on the album sounds so similar, it's hard to tell them apart. They're all just loud, distorted, simple chord progressions a 2 year old could write. The vocals never seem to change, either. It's always just Lacey over emphasizing his vowels as he sings slightly louder and for some unusual reason, a lot slower. Occasionally the band provide back up vocals, but rather than the layering of different lyrics Your Favourite Weapon couldn't get enough of, they simply sing the same thing Lacey does, the same way Lacey does. It can get kind of bland. I never thought I'd say this, but the few times the vocal layering does appear, it's a relief. This reflects on a lot of the album, too. If you weren't focusing when listening to it, you'd sometimes be surprised to find out that the song you were listening to finished 2 minutes ago. When focusing, it's clear the songs are very different, but when you begin relaxing, it starts to sound a bit repetitive. These are very minor faults that I'm blowing way out of proportion, however. They hardly effect the enjoyment of the album. It's just very hard to find fault with this album, so when you do, it seems more notable than it really is.
The truth is, Deja Entendu is a fantastic album. It's a benchmark for its genre, in my opinion, with its blend of acoustic melodies and aggressive choruses. It combines a charming, honest lyrical quality with a great use of metaphors and word play, and tops it all off with much improved song writing and musicianship. Whether or not you're a fan of the genre, there's absolutely no reason not to give Brand New a chance. You'd be missing out if you let the stigma that seems to follow its peers get in the way of enjoying Deja Entendu.