Album Reviews: The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me by Brand NewWhen I first heard Brand New, I was sitting shotgun in my girlfriend's Toyota Cressida. I was a freshman in college, back home for Thanksgiving. She was a year younger, still stuck in high school, and the distance was hard on us. She said I was sure to love this song, and keyed up "Soco Amaretto Lime," the acoustic finale to BN's debut Your Favorite Weapon. As it ends, singer Jessie Lacey repeatedly shouts "you're just jealous cause we're young and in love." In that moment the distance and the fighting didn't matter, we were together, young, and in love.
The release of The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me arrived almost five years from that moment. I've graduated college and moved on to the frantic Manhattan working world. Brand New released Deja Entendu in 2003 and has continued to expand their sound from its early pop-punk/emo origins into something much denser and darker. Brand New's earlier work was adored by fans for capturing the epic feelings of the small moments in life. Can their new work connect in the same way after a three-year hiatus?
Many a punk band is striving for a more mature sound these days, but that usually just means they pen the same troubled tales in the past tense. That's not the case here. With The Devil, Jessie's lyrics have become increasingly poetic, opting for the abstract over the obvious. While earlier songs like YFW's "Jude Law and A Semester Abroad" were blatantly bitter send-offs to ex-girlfriends, new tracks like "Archers" and lead single "Sowing Season" deal with subjects like paranoia, politics, and the afterlife. They come through in lines like, "'cause the God I believed in worked on a campaign trail." There are still songs about love and girls, but just like life, there are more subjects to touch on after high school.
Brand New certainly didn't have a sophomore slump. Deja Entendu, was highly acclaimed, a far more intricate and mature album than high-school penned YFW. The Devil is the next step in that progression, with the band shredding almost all elements of the dreaded emo tag. Vinnie, Garret, and Brian meld the distortions of Radiohead and Digital Ash-era Bright Eyes with the loud/soft dynamics of grunge bands. Then there are the new wave elements, and the old emo influences like Sunny Day Real Estate and Inside. But, unlike some of this year's identity thieves -- see The Killers, Jet -- Brand New meld all their influences to a sound that is, well, brand new. All while still sounding like themselves.
Even with all the abstract, Brand New still finds the direct line to your heart. Lacey's lyrics will creep up in the slow songs and hit you hard on the rockers. "No matter what they say, I am still the king," Lacey tells us on the ominously layered "Degausser." The message is clear: Brand New is back to reign. With a batch of songs like these it will be hard to argue. - David Pessah, kNewIt06
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