Brand New's Rage Sees New Directions
By
David Jackson
2/8/2007 2:06:43 PM

Brand New fans have been waiting three years for something, well, brand new, from the Merrick, New York-based rock band. They have not waited in vain. Since their breakout with the singles “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” and “Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades” from 2003's Deja Entendu, Brand New have undergone a perceptible shift, and in a surprisingly mature direction. On their new release, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me [Interscope/Tiny Evil], they seem to have traded a bit of their sarcasm for a darker, more bitter tone.

At first glance, The Devil And God seems to be a quite subdued relative to the band's earlier material. The truth, however, is that it’s far more sophisticated. The prominent acoustic and clean electric guitars don't take away from the album's passionate, angry atmosphere, but rather, enhance it with sinister overtones. By providing contrast, the quiet sections give the rage a chance to simmer, lulling listeners into a false sense of security that makes the “attacks” much more powerful. A good example can be found on the album opener, “Sowing Season.” The song spends the opening verse mixing apathetic, muttered lyrics with chiming, quiet instrumentation. Then, at the end of the verse, singer Jesse Lacey screams as the song explodes into a brutal siren-like guitar riff. The song's most poignant moment comes in the last verse, when the lyrics seem to become a tirade against the listener. In a convincing shout, Lacey calls over a sparse musical backdrop, “I am not your friend! I'm not your lover! I'm not your friend! YEAH!”

On the rest of the album the truly furious moments are fewer, but as mentioned earlier, it works much to the band's advantage. From the apathy and disgrace of “Millstone” to the confusion of “Degausser,” the album plays well on the morbid and unsettling. “Jesus Christ,” the first single, is mellow and reserved throughout, juxtaposing religious allusions and death with a deceptively simple guitar riff. Another powerful track is “Limousine,” apparently written about Katie Flynn, a 7-year-old girl beheaded in a brutal car crash. Throughout, the lyrics remain up to par with the improved songwriting: for instance, “Now some saint got the job of writing down my sins/The storm is coming/here is your storm again” from “Degausser,” or the narrator of “Archers” as he asks someone carrying a torch, “Do you believe in anything? Or do you carry it around just to burn things down?”

How well you respond to all this is of course partly a matter of your emo tolerance – that is to say, how well you can react to the music that has come to receive that label of late. The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me is likely to be classified as ‘emo,’ especially for its obsession with hurt feelings and mortality, and some people simply can't listen to that, whatever the context. If you are that kind of person, this record won't change your mind. For the rest of us, there's a lot to like about Brand New's latest effort, and it shows a lot of thought and a lot of improvement. Whether you're an old fan or just discovering the band, the intelligent, dark songwriting is clearly appealing. Also, it makes you curious: What's the story behind the album? Does the girl on the cover, shown hiding from two men in skeleton masks outside a house, represent Katie Flynn? Why are there phone messages hidden on the CD in the “lead-in” to “Sowing Season”? While not quite a concept album, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me has some wonderfully mysterious qualities to go with its great tunes. Let's just hope that we don't have to wait another three years to hear what Brand New does next – If this album is any indication, the next disc will be truly fantastic.

 

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