Review Summary: Brand New realise the potential they've been threatening us with for years.
Brand New’s 2001 debut Your Favourite Weapon
could well have been the aural equivalent of sucking a lemon such was its bitterness, except this lemon left an intriguing flavour rather than a bad aftertaste. Resentment in these sorts of quantities would make any self-respecting emo proud, but Brand New’s knack for clever articulation belied their angsty subject matter. This core competency was expanded on further with the follow-up, Deja Entendu
, already heard, the title in itself a witty snipe at levied criticisms of homogeneity. But Deja Entendu
did not suffer from generic blandness; the crunchy pop-punk guitars were substituted for acoustic musings and considered arpeggios whilst Jesse Lacey’s lyrics were spun with a sharper tongue, laced with citric acidity. The band had clearly matured and clearly had much more to say.
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
is the embodiment of this progression. No longer content to dwell on the real but ultimately youthful feelings concerning broken hearts and jilted lovers, TDAG
has larger issues in mind. The opening ‘Sowing Season (Yeah)’ sets the tone for despondency, but there’s nothing alienating in its insularity; Lacey’s ruminations on death sound deeply personal but with a strong element of universality that confronts more ethereal issues. ‘Jesus’ is perhaps the album’s defining moment of this delicate musing on faith. Magnificently structured, the song remains elusive and threadbare for its opening few minutes; the use of only two chords and subtle instrumentation create caution and tension as Lacey tentatively struggles to come to terms with the nature of death. The eventual entry of a third chord, at a full three minutes into the song, finally adds resolution as Lacey forsakes his initial disquiet and expresses his full abjectness. The song then seemingly ends, only to reappear from the silence for just a few bars more, as if to reiterate the band’s self-assurance, as if to disprove the pessimist who may question the band’s intent for the song to sound exactly how it does. It demonstrates an undeniable sense of purpose with a truly poetic grasp on its transcendental postulation.
It’s not all so studious however, and the album is not without its hooks. Nostalgic throwbacks to the better elements of Deja Entendu
exist in the forms of ‘Not the Sun’ and ‘The Archer’s Bows Have Broken’, the latter’s thick vocal harmonies being incandescent in their presence and far from unwelcome on an album that could well be overbearing in its intensity otherwise. Even these songs however still possess the dense and varied textures which characterise the album. Perhaps the best melding of the album’s melody, density and philosophy is ‘Millstone’, with its soft whispered verses, immensely powerful chorus, all topped with Lacey’s guttural screams in the finale.
The abstract and the metaphysical are given an intense treatment on this album. It is often said that the biggest challenge to the existence of God is the problem of evil: the existence of evil in this world despite the supposed ever-presence of an omnipotent and benevolent overseer. This album plays out like one man’s struggle with this very fact; a struggle with faith whilst being perpetually tested by tragedy. The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me
is a religious album in the sense that it grapples with inner conflict with an agnostic yearning, and no matter what your religious stance may be, if indeed you have one at all, you can’t help but be taken aback by how confidently Brand New confront these ideals through both the sound they have crafted and the lyrical content. None of Brand New’s early nous for honing a melody has been lost, and so many of the songs are enjoyable on their own merits, but this album is an absorbing experience, one that hopes to move you in a deep way, whether that be through headphones in the pitch black of your bedroom, or singing along loudly with 12,000 fans at Wembley Arena. I've tried both, and they both came up good.
Written for www.nightbus.tumblr.com