Review Summary: I used to pray like God was listening
Giving a perfect score to a Brand New album is just about the most cliched thing one can do here. And honestly I wouldn't blame you if you rolled your eyes and clicked away because, quite frankly, what the hell can I possibly say about this album that hasn't been said by someone already, and said better? I guess I'll give it a shot.
The funny thing is, this isn't even my favorite album of this particular band. I feel like it's too ubiquitous almost. It's everyone's favorite. So why did I pick to review it? Well, like most Brand New fans, I'm a clinically depressed white boy whose going through a rough patch. And for that particular brand of sadness and pain, this one fits the bill.
The cliche thing is to say Devil and God is sad. Every Brand New album is sad, of course it is. But Devil and God doesn't waste your time with pretense, it is ABOUT sadness. It is about misery and pain and the contradictions and doubts that come with realizing how small that pain really is. It's existentialist in a way. Songs like 'Sowing Season' and 'Jesus Christ' paint this picture of a bleak impressionist painting of someone who cannot reconcile how he used to view the world and how he presently views it. There is conflict that cannot be understood or reconciled.
From that confusion arises an attempt to deal with it in other ways. On songs like 'Sowing Season', 'Degausser', and 'You Won't Know' are all about desperately trying to find some kind of refuge. Drinking. Drugs. Any method of escapism. Because the world, no matter who you are, is a scary place where learning more about it simply makes you more privy to more problems. The song 'Limousine' is a departure from the more abstract nature of the tracks on the album for the most part and tells the story of... well who am I kidding we all know what this is about. The devastation and buildup here is absolutely beautiful. The repetition of 'I can dish it out, but I can't take it' brings me to tears every time. And the song's vehement refusal to end almost reminds me of the grueling cruelty you'd find on their latest album, Science Fiction.
Structurally the songs are more abstract and subject to whim. That last part of 'Jesus Christ' always manages to surprise me even though I know it's coming. The end of 'Limousine' as previously stated abandons structure entirely. The structure isn't your typical chorus verse chorus affair, which may turn off people, but I feel like even the songs themselves, lyrically, structurally, and musically, manage to be this stream of consciousness continuous melody that carries itself from start to finish. Listening to these tracks with fresh ears is interesting, as songs like 'You Won't Know' just go from 0 to 50 in a second, and always ends up being musically compelling.
The production is exactly what you'd expect. it's rough. It's not 'Your Favorite Weapon' or anything, but the actual mixing and sound feels very raw, but not without sacrificing talent or proficiency. The instrumentation is superb, the riffs all memorable, the guitars loud and distorted, and Lacey's vocal delivery is at it's all-time best on this record specifically.
I think my favorite portion of the album comes from the high you get from 'Not the Sun' that flows into the slow opening of 'Luca'. You start off with the highest energy point in the album and bring it down to a song that always manages to feel like an emotional gut-punch, definitely my favorite on the album overall.
This album's viewpoint is squarely from Brand New. They know their audience. They know how to communicate with them, because they ARE them. I feel like this album was an attempt to capture the pain, anger, fear, self-loathing, and of course, sadness of adolescence. They balled it up and tied a ribbon around it as if to say 'No, it's not just you. You aren't alone. We felt this too.' And if that isn't a great demonstration of the power of music then I don't know what is. There is a reason everyone talks about this album. There's a reason everyone loves it. And hell, if you don't like it, that's understandable. Really. This is so tailor made to the core BN audience that if you don't get the appeal, don't feel bad, it's probably just not for you.
But right now, it's for me. The emotional resonance. The catharsis of sitting here, listening to this concentration of distilled sadness. Feeling the complicated emotions that arise from truly dwelling on what you feel and what this album has to say about the way you feel, it is a painful experience. One that I can only listen to every so often. It's like a ritual. It's like the opposing forces from the album's title are as real as Jesse Lacey's vocals. And you know what? It works.
Favorite Tracks: Luca, Not the Sun, Sowing Season, Limousine
Least Favorite Tracks: N/A