Review Summary: A random album never heard before turns into a brand new favorite.
....Anyone? Oh forget it.
Six years late and all lame puns aside, Brand New’s “The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me” (or “TDAGARIM”, as lovingly abbreviated later on) carries a bold and pleasing sound in all aspects upon the first few listens. Simplicity takes a spotlight in the best way possible: there’s never too much going on to overwhelm the senses, just enough to satiate the mind with supple harmonies and surprise roughness. There is layering to be found here: just not in the way you might hear it elsewhere in busier albums. A dichotomy of a sense of simplicity still intrigues the mind, and as the album progresses, things get busier without being overwhelming. Songs became more complex without really advancing anywhere. It’s a most curious occurrence that isn’t found many other places, and this new paradox is most welcomed.
Backtracking a little here, the production speaks for itself through a good set of speakers or headphones with crisp instruments and balanced drums. From the regular mix of the normal instruments (i.e. the guitars, bass, drums, vocals) to all the obscured, peculiar synthesizers in the background, everything is heard when it needs to be heard and takes a backseat when it isn’t called upon as much. A special mention of exceptionally present bass guitar must be made here, especially with its ever-interesting lines woven among the melodies being churned out from the guitars. It is interesting to hear just how much “bigger” a band sounds when the bass is turned up, and Brand New doesn’t skimp on big bass throughout “TDAGARIM”. This concept helps give everything body and volume, and it’s definitely heard in most every song jamming clearly with the rest.
Lyrically speaking, Brand New does what they’re known for: depressing lines crying out from brokenness of soul and lost relationships. The contrast between these scripts and the often upbeat music is different in all the right ways, and sometimes all the hurt written in is easily forgotten, with exception to tracks such as “Handcuffs”. The band certainly earns their association with the emo culture, but it’s so much better that they could easily shrug it off. The overall feel is less whiny and pathetic and more parallels a stoic seriousness from internal calluses, making it far more enjoyable to the emotionally stable.
There is a problem with the “TDAGARIM”, though: it seems to run out of gas composition and balance-wise in the latter half. The first four songs are powerful, catchy, and instant classics to most anyone with strong, raw choruses and groovy riffs. “Sowing Season” heads everything off with surprise intensity and intrigue; “Millstone” continues with what can only be described as a classic chorus deserving of the Repeat button. “Jesus” allows a catch of breath with mellow arpeggios woven into a heart-tugging ballad, and “Degausser” cranks everything back up with some of the catchiest and grooviest writing out there. As everything progresses, however, it feels like an early sprint left everything out of breath for the rest of the marathon. While the CD manages to keep a reasonable pace from there on out, it slows down to a half-hearted run after a while that never seems to compare to what came first. Yes, the rest of the songs are good. Yes, there are still fast, energetic parts later on. None the less, none of it can grab the spotlight from the first section of the album, and as a whole it feels very front-heavy. A better balance would have been nice, but this is a minor flaw; moreover, bands usually seem to have a reason for the order of their songs on an album and sometimes the listener just never understands.
What else is there to say here? Most everyone knows just how good this album is and many consider it to be their best work of all time. Arriving six years later with a fresh first listen still proves its hard-earned praise; it definitely stands the tests of time in the seas of thousands of other artists. Balancing issues aside, this will certainly be an album that will be enjoyed for a long time by most everyone.