Review Summary: Beautiful teenage years
These days Brand New receive pretty universal praise on websites like this, and rightly so - their most recent album is outstanding and personally I'm looking forward to their next album later this year a ridiculous amount. Listening to their first album, however, the more or less straightforward pop-punk doesn't seem to be the same band - and what's more puzzling is the gap between this and their latest offering is seemingly just as wide. After much thought, however, one would have to conclude that this is probably only a fraction of a percent less of an album that "The Devil and God..." - and even that's debatable.
So how did Brand New's "awkward second album" manage to blossom into such a work of art? Sure, it's trapped somewhat by the genre Brand New presumably forced themselves into - tracks such as "It's Okay, I Believe You..." and "Sic Transit Gloria...", formerly favourites of mine, are put into perspective when considered against not only Brand New's newer material, but also the more understated, delicate tracks on here which generally work around the band's chosen genre as opposed to inside of it. That's not to say such tracks are necessarily bad - the more minimal bass line/drum beat stylings of "Sic Transit Gloria..."'s verses and occasional lyrical touches of genius on "...Tommy Gun" certainly point to a band ahead of their peers - but the chorus of the former song, and slightly embarrassing "witty" lines in the latter serve to restrain the band's undoubted potential. Even when filtering firmly into straightforward "pop-punk", they manage to do so with a maturity and sense of pathos that does somewhat foreshadow the direction they would go on to take - "Guernica"'s musings on the traumas of cancer a prime example of such qualities.
Even the traditional, acoustic song on here manage to strike a chord (pun not intended) - "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot" and "Play Crack the Sky" delicate, beautiful pieces that, whilst depressing in content, are more melancholy than the blatantly darker, more hopeless equivalents on the follow-up, and tracks that are as sweet as they are sombre.
Tracks like the mid-album one-two of "Jaws Theme Swimming" and "Me vs Maradona vs Elvis" are more up to par in terms of quality with the band's latest work - yet they're not similar. Instead of loud walls of guitar sound and harsh vocal delivery, these tracks are marked by their smooth, simple and stylish guitar lines, the walking bass immidiately before the chorus and a dry, soft, cynical vocal delivery. Quite simply put, Brand New have shown on this album they have the potential in future releases to do more than to merely ape the style and substance of "The Devil and God...", and it's not really surprising.