Brand New Review
by Andrew Phelan
First things first: forget everything you thought you knew about Brand New. These are not the same men that wrote Your Favourite Weapon and Déjà Entendu. Well, they are, but figuratively speaking they're not the same. The members of Brand New had little contact with the outside world during the writing and recording process for the new album, aside from their cryptic website and their leaked demos. Some of this is apparently attributed to the hospitalization of lead singer Jesse Lacey for appendicitis. As the public, we have little insight into the change that has gone on in the hearts and minds of Brand New, but something tells me that the tiny modification in Lacey's abdominal cavity is minuscule compared to the change we've seen, heard, and will continue to see in the band.
The similarities between The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me and their two former albums are few and far between, but the one that stands out the most is Lacey's distinctly sorrowful voice. Had I not known any better, I might have thought Lacey had been the mouthpiece for three different bands over the course of five years. However, "similar" doesn't mean the same. Lacey managed to turn the vocals knob from "whiney and shrilly" to "more controlled and varied" in the time between Weapon and Entendu, but for The Devil he cranked it up one more notch to "How every high school emo band will want to sound."
Having heard the nine demos leaked onto the internet months before the album came out, I suppose I was anticipating a 50 minute album a la "Play Crack the Sky." Either that or they were trying to be The Cure. I suppose that's why bands don't like when their demos get leaked. Even the songs that made the actual full length ("Sowing Season (Yeah)", "Luca") only contain a handful of the original lyrics. But look at it this way; now you have two sets of lyrics to memorize/change your Myspace name to.
Sometimes a band can mature lyrically, but still write the same crappy three chord progressions that we all learned the second we picked up a guitar. It's simple really; throw in a couple powers chord, toss together some quasi-poetic lyrics about a girl breaking your heart, scream some, and you're signed to Victory Records. It's not rocket science. Then again, one doesn't write introspective lyrics and heartbreaking melodies like Lacey's without really contemplating one's existence, faith, and self worth ("Jesus Christ"). The album title is probably not just a coincidence. The whole album is peppered with references to God and the afterlife that will make even the faithless shudder.
Still present are the layers of vocals that are very much a staple on previous albums. However, layers of ambient sounds, twanging guitars, and strings made nice additions without looking as if they were trying to hard. Brand New are not only fans of the "slow build" ("Limousine", "Jesus Christ") but they also work with striking, and often shocking, "quiet strumming followed immediately by pulverizing guitar and vocal destruction" ("Sowing Season (Yeah)", "You Won't Know", "Luca"). The only song that seems out of place is "The Archers Bows Have Broken," which would be more fitting for a Dashboard Confessional or Panic! At the Disco album.
Without a doubt, this is the new reference point in Brand New's career. Each subsequent album will be compared to The Devil. Given the press that Brand New is becoming America's Radiohead, I guess you could say this is their OK Computer. Now hold on one second! I didn't say this album was as good as or better than OK Computer. I'm simply saying that Brand New have created an album in which they have set a new standard for themselves that they cannot fall below, at least in the eyes of fans. To follow an landmark album like this with a miserable, shameful excuse for a record that no one would care about would be a tragedy. No, I'm not talking about the Killers.
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