Review Summary: Do I divide and fall apart?
There's something grisly about Brand New. Starting off as a pop-punk outfit with Jupiter-sized choruses, they sort of matured on Deja Entendu - and then they matured even more. But maturing in their case also means sounding darker - and I don't mean that Lacey sounds like The Cure. But sometimes hope is a hard thing to convey, and when you're 28 life doesn't have the same spunk as it does when you're 18. There's no more first kisses, there's no more sex for the first time, there's maybe love and a lot of life - but it's sure different and less exciting. I guess Brand New evolved in a similar sort of way, where they traded teenage cliches for adult subjects - but among everything, there's still a feeling that this band seems to be a grumpy bunch of sad sacks that mope and whine more than their share of bad luck deserves.
What's good about that though is that it feels more than ever, inhumanly personal. When Lacey sings "I'll never say anything right", you almost get the feeling that he actually isn't. When he sings "I can dish it out, but I can't take it" you're scared that he'll dump everything he loves and run off to somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Car crashes, sinking to the bottom of the lake, hypocritical religious fellows - the world is a place of misery. "I was the glue that kept my friends together. Now they don't talk and we don't go out" seems to be almost exemplary - on Millstone it feels like everything you've ever known as a kid - it's been lost. It's not coming back, and Lacey knows it - you know it.
Maybe there's hope in little things - I would not know - but Lacey doesn't seem to believe in that. And I think that is where this album connects with people. It's an album for the lethargized masses. It's an album for you and me because this is about what we all know hurts all of us. When Lacey intones "Do I get the gold chariot / or do I float through the ceiling" we turn inwards and embrace our own fear of death. Do we actually get a gold chariot or float through the ceiling? Nobody knows, it's all what we believe to be true, but I'm just as scared as you are - is what Lacey is trying to say, and in a way that is more genuine than dwelling on teenage cliches as a youngster.
Another fun part is that musically the band seems to be more mature in a way too. The songs don't feel like pop-punk power chord bursts anymore - there is now a grace with which Brand New pump out choruses that makes it more than what it seems to be. Be aware, this isn't technical - it's just executing songs the right way. This is an album where the music fits the lyrics, the lyrics fit the music, and the songs fit the album. Things like Jesus Christ don't feel like the band is a newer Blink-182. It feels more real, as if the band has embraced their indie/alternative rock roots. On Welcome to Bangkok, it feels like there are grand background noises; on Degausser there is a choir; and the various acoustics don't feel tacked on anymore like they did on Deja Entendu. Their songs make sense now, to anyone, anywhere. That may be an even bigger strength.
I'm sure some will be turned off by the fact that Lacey's descent into agonising even more will put some off, but even when he shouts "you barely joyous broken thing" on Archers the melody drives everything home anyway. This is an album for the heart, not for the mind, and it's something you need to give a bit more time to unfold than is common with this sort of music. There is more worth in this album's simplicity than there is in a million notes played by Joe Satriani or a million one liners from Pete Wentz. This album is a coherent whole, united, and to this day (even after Daisy) will probably stand as this band's magnum opus. They're welcome to it because I prefer honest and grisly to falsely cheery.