Review Summary: As Brand New goes on and travels through the motions, it becomes apparent that in this album, even though originality took a back seat, the album is an accomplished whole.
It's sort of funny how some "emo" bands get pegged as overly trite and similar to each other. As with everything, similar bands invite similar comparisons, similar crossover, similar traits, and Brand New's shtick seems derived from the same thing that all their contemporaries did at this point in time; during the rise of pop-punk Brand New rose with the rest of them, and certainly, someone could definitely pinpoint Taking Back Sunday as an influence, or something like New Found Glory (though this is better).
And even though Brand New's formula is pretty much a double-edged sword (tunes at the expense of originality, which to choose, which to choose), they pretty much got the balance right. Because what this record lacks (innovativity) it makes up for with more-than-clever lyrical twists of tongue, tunes to die for, and the duality between screaming power chords and moody, brooding acoustic rock. Even the song titles are typical of what they're playing: "Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't" just reeks of the same types of pretense that all their peers seem to so lovingly indulge in.
Thankfully, Brand New gots the songwriting to cope with the bad titles. "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows" may be deliberately awkwardly titled, as it's probably one of the most explosive songs on the record. But the guitar melody entering at the beginning just makes it super fit for radio play: it's been a while since I heard a hook that infectious. The rest of the album is like that, too. "Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades" is one of those typical songs where pop punk harmonising meets some more screechy yelled vocals, but the uptempo drive and beat makes it work in tandem (rather than the awful tripe other bands seem to produce).
The other end of the stick is the acoustic rock stuff, which takes their cues from the usual suspects (Dashboard Confessional meets Coldplay). Most of the time this doesn't work as well as the more driving, energetic songs, as for some reason Lacey doesn't seem to find his voice as well as he should on these songs; he seems to come off as a bit too whiny (though the hook on The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot is still amazing as ever). And even though Lacey's seemingly sombre on every song, moreso the acoustic ones, the slow opening dirge of "Tautou" with Lacey's continuous drawl of "I'm sinking like a stone in the sea" sets the mood aptly and rapturously for the rest of the record.
As Brand New goes on and travels through the motions, it becomes apparent that though this record is doused in negativity, it seems as if they have gone beyond the sour teenage tales of broken relationships, and moved into more mature territory; though the old phrasings still apply on occasion ("I am paid to make girls panic"). It's almost like the pop punk album for coming of age; as Lacey explores deeper and deeper, not merely enveloping himself in tales of romance, but also of cancer ("Guernica"), it becomes apparent that in this album, even though originality took a back seat, the album is an accomplished whole.
Is this worth a purchase? Most likely if your twenty bucks are easily spent, and if you dig the genre and style on display. But surprisingly, it's also a good representation of what this genre has to offer without becoming an annoying chore to sit through. It's packed full of crystal clear tunes and good lyrics; so much that even a less-than-aficiniado might chew on this pop-punk cherry pie and savour the taste a bit. It's still sticky sweet, like the rest of it, but at least you don't feel fat afterwards, like you don't fit into your skinny jeans anymore. I guess that's where this differs from common "emo" pop punk music.