Review Summary: Brand New teases us by revisiting the fountain of youth and re-recording it.
When I first downloaded Fight Off Your Demons
, the collection of untitled, unreleased holdovers from the iconic The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
era, it was a double-edged sword. The songs themselves were great, but in a number of cases it left me wondering how certain tracks failed to make their way onto the record. Of course, this is leaving out essential details such as the fact that Fight Off Your Demons
was actually supposed to be The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
, and that the band decided to wipe the slate clean and start over in 2005. So in reality, my means of viewing it as a collection of scraps was flawed to begin with because it is actually the band’s fifth LP that they simply chose to never officially
release. Regardless of the facts though, it’s still difficult not to play the “what if” game. For years, I wondered what it would be like if they revisited those songs and recorded them properly. It would have been a dream come true not only for myself, but for Brand New zealots across the globe. At the very least, I always wondered what could have been if they took the best FOYD
cuts and applied them to their magnum opus, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
. Despite how amazing TDAGARIM
was and still is to this day, it could have been even better. I mean, can you imagine
subbing out ‘[Untitled]’ and maybe ‘Not The Sun’ for any combination of ‘Nobody Moves’, ‘Missing You’, and/or ‘1996?’ For all the what-if scenarios that ran through my mind, Fight Off Your Demons
always felt like a great record that was somehow misused or unfulfilled.
That sort of changed earlier this year with the unceremonious release of Leaked Demos 2006
, which saw the band re-record the Fight Off Your Demons
session at a higher quality. The whole thing, although structurally identical to the original recordings, sounded more like a real album and less like a bad torrent rip. It felt like something of a peace offering, as if the band were finally throwing flowers on the grave of that project, so to speak. So with the wholly unexpected re-recording of three of those demos, coming in the form of the aptly titled 3 Demos, Reworked
EP, it feels a bit like Brand New is dwelling on the past. In essence, this is now the second time just in this year alone that they are toying with and/or reconfiguring songs that are over a decade old. In some ways, it is difficult to embrace reworked versions of tracks that I’ve come to appreciate for what they’ve always been - however, there’s still that part of me that still wants to see Lacey and company go into full recording mode and turn the whole collection into a proper LP. With real
studio versions of ‘Brother’s Song’, ‘Missing You’, and ‘1996’ now in existence, Brand New is tapping into a pool of potential that has been stagnant for over ten years now.
The success of any Fight Off Your Demons
re-working hinges solely on production and execution, considering that the songs are in no way new. The good news is that all three of these tracks are excellently produced on this go-around, with crystal clear acoustics and vocals that put any of the former demos to shame. When Lacey leaps into his high pitched vocals on the chorus of ‘Brother's Song’, the entire track feels rejuvenated and better off. The addition of a percussive presence also gives the song an added kick in its step, as opposed to the swaying, lazy day feel of the original piece. I suppose it comes down to a matter of personal taste with regards to which style one prefers, but there’s no denying that the fresh gleam upon the newer version provides ‘Brother's Song’ with a superior auditory quality that was previously lacking. ‘Missing You’ adopts a darker and more mysterious vibe, one that would historically suit Brand New better but that comes up a little limp in this case. ‘Missing You’ was always the exception to Brand New’s bleak outlook, offering up wistful but celebratory lyrics atop an upbeat, electronically-infused baseline. On this particular reworking, the verses feel more sinister and the chorus does not quite reach the same heights, thus changing the overall tone of the song. Once again though, as with all three tracks here, it’s all a matter of personal preference. For those who have been rocking out to ‘Missing You’ as sort of a “slightly depressed, yet happy about it” anthem for years, the new approach will take some getting used to. ‘1996’ wraps up the EP, and it is also the closest stylistically to its respective original effort. The guitars ring out with a more clarity and everything sounds simultaneously more digestible and elegant, so most listeners will probably chalk it up to a win. That’s sort of an accurate critique of 3 Demos, Reworked
as a whole – it is an overall success but not a resounding one, making several improvements and worthwhile tweaks while losing some small traces of original appeal in the process.
3 Demos, Reworked
is aimed at longtime, diehard Brand New followers. For the casual listener, this EP offers no discernible differences and it is by no means an essential addition to the group’s catalog. With that said, the majority of the creative choices with these re-workings pay off, not to mention that they all sound better properly produced than their demo counterparts. If Brand New were to re-work the entire Fight Off Your Demons
session in the same manner, I’d consider it a worthwhile release to stand alongside any of their other LPs. As it stands though, this is merely a taste test…a teaser. It’s more than a little curious as to why Brand New feels the need to consistently revisit this project as they have in recent months, and it’s almost worth speculating that a lot of these songs just might find their way onto the highly anticipated and equally as mysterious upcoming record, which has yet to be titled or formally announced in any way. Still, if this is any indication of the sound that Brand New intends to adopt for future works, then 3 Demos, Reworked
is all the more reason for fans to start getting excited.