Review Summary: LaGuardia to North Hempstead.The Long Island Sound: A Reflection on Suburban New York's Musical History - Part 1
I stare out the window of Interstate 495, more commonly known around these parts as the Long Island Expressway. Exit 41S is my destination, yet I’m stuck ten miles back in the middle of a swarm of cars going ten miles per hour.
“I knew I have should have taken the Northern State.”
As I make my way towards Levittown, I reach into the glove compartment and pull out a CD. It’s not just any CD though. It’s one that will get me loads of thumbs-ups and fistbumps as I cruise down Jerusalem Avenue. It’s one that will bring back memories of their hometown heroes, perhaps the greatest representation of Long Island musically. The chessmen and the chess clock are so iconic to thousands of people who have followed them from the very beginning. Back in 2001, Your Favorite Weapon
ruled the headphones of thousands of angst-filled teenagers living in New York’s suburbia, some who even personally knew the band members. Brand New hailed from the town of Levittown, a village located within the Nassau County known for its postwar rise to popularity and racial exclusivity.
Although Your Favorite Weapon
is generally known as Brand New’s worst effort thanks to its simplicity, basic songwriting and immaturity, you wouldn’t know given the acclaim it receives back in their hometown. Never go to Long Island and tell fans of the band that their 2001 debut pales in comparison to the rest of their material. You’ll come home wearing various shades of black, blue, purple and red. The commonly accepted opinion is that the lackluster Devil and God
are to blame for the band’s descent of mediocrity. How dare the band that made the pop-punk classic “Seventy Times 7” dare tarnish their legacy with shit like whatever the hell “Be Gone” is supposed to be? It makes a little bit of sense though – Your Favorite Weapon
came out when many of these now-30 year olds were in high school, going through the same cycle of broken hearts and hurt emotions that Brand New so perfectly displayed thirteen years ago when they first came out.
“It’s time for you to choose the bullet or the chapstick – it’s me in his room.”
The traffic refuses to let up. After five minutes, I’ve finally reached the next exit – number 34. By this time, “The Shower Scene” and “Jude Law” had already passed me by without any attention. Brand New have always had a knack for writing powerful openers, and Your Favorite Weapon
is no different. Clocking in at a little over two minutes, “The Shower Scene” breezes by fast, but not without leaving its mark. The track’s frantic drumming is some of the best on the album, displaying Brian Lane’s true talents. If anything, what lets the album down the most is the lack of variation – although Brand New can play pop-punk really well, Your Favorite Weapon
really could have benefited from something different than standard fare.
”Forget everything you think you know about me. This isn’t high school.”
As soon as I pass the Shelter Rock Road junction, the traffic finally disappears. Cruising through the Island at 65 miles per hour has never felt so great before. The sky is painted a clear blue, and nothing is stopping me from reaching my destination. Exits shoot right past me like high-speed bullet trains. Searingtown Road. Willis Avenue. Northern State Parkway. “Last Chance to Lose Your Keys” blasts at full volume, and I suddenly remember the sheer emotion behind the song. Lacey’s performance is so beautifully tragic on Your Favorite Weapon
’s strong middle section – the despondence and melancholia in his vocals so perfectly express his agony and heartache that I can help but shed a tear when he declares, “If I can choose, it’s only you” on “The No Seatbelt Song”. His voice carries so much emotion that it’s hard not to feel moved by it. Vin Accardi also lays down his fair share of excellent riffs – his performances on “Seventy Times 7” and “Mixtape” show a sense of maturity for a young band just getting started.
Suddenly, cars flood what was a near-empty highway three minutes ago. A fatal car crash blocks off two of the expressway’s three lanes. I get a glimpse of the blue 2009 Lexus as I drift by it at fifteen miles per hour. A young woman in her mid-20s has been decapitated, her head breaking through the glass windshield and landing in a field a hundred kilometers away. In the driver seat, her seatbelt remains unscathed, untouched, left off to the side. As the traffic worsens, I find myself stuck in this car, with the album’s weakest stretch playing. Tracks like “Secondary” and “Magazine” aren’t horrible, but they easily rank amongst Your Favorite Weapon
’s least desirable tracks because its generic sound leads to a rather uninspired performance from the band.
“I’m gonna stay eighteen forever so we can stay like this forever.”
That’s not what describes “Soco Amaretto Lime”, which is perhaps Brand New’s most awe-inspiring closer ever. The track’s stripped-down arrangement emits a reflective aura with lyrical content about realizing how youth is quickly fleeting. Even if the band’s first effort may seem immature compared to the dark, brooding The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
, keep in mind that Your Favorite Weapon
is the sound of a group of young, inexperienced teenagers whose greatest demons were getting their heart stomped on by the local neighborhood whore. “Soco Amaretto Lime” shows signs of musical progression, featuring an acoustic guitar and melodic vocal harmonies. Capturing the spirit of adolescence in a slow ballad is hard to do, but Brand New make it work.
After forty-one minutes of hellish traffic, the exit is finally in my sight. The wheels turn as the record suddenly ends with a record skip. Green lights shine down South Broadway, and as I cruise down one of Hicksville’s major thoroughfares, I can’t help but think about Your Favorite Weapon
more. Despite being reliant on the heavy use of power chords and simple pop-punk song structures, Brand New were able to make the best of a genre that could easily get generic and stale. Although they may fall victims to its banality, it’s amazing to see how much the Levittown four progressed from here. At times clichéd, recycled and naïve, but never insincere or unemotional, Your Favorite Weapon
was the first catharsis of Jesse Lacey’s own imperfections and shortcomings, ones that soon evolved into darker and more grueling things.
The road splits in two. I stay on the left and turn left onto Hempstead Turnpike. Next stop? Amityville.
PART II: ”This is me with the words on the tip of my tongue..