Friday, February 9, 2007

Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me - Interscope Records/Tiny Evil (2006)

Upstate New-York emo/punk four-piece Brand New have not released an album since 2003’s “Deja Entendu”. Their latest effort “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” is a return to the form that they crafted on the last record. However the jury is still out as to whether or not this release has broken any new ground or not.

The title of the record certainly reflects the pain and emotion of lead singer Jesse Lacey as he spits out his bitter lyrics over the standard “loud-quiet” emo template. The album opener “Sowing Season (Yeah)” starts off with some gentle guitar strumming as Lacey states “I am not a man, but at least now I can say I tried…” letting the listener who is familiar with Brand New know that he is the same angry, hurt and broken man he was at the end of “Deja Entendu”. The strumming quickly blasts into a frenzy as Lacey screams the chorus of “Yeah, Yeah….Yeah, Yeah!”. The tracks proves to be a good introduction to the new record, while also reminding us that Lacey and company have not forgot how to wear their emotions of their sleeves.

After reminiscing and telling us about the numerous changes he needs to make in order to become a better person on tracks such as “Millstone” and telling us that “We all have wooden nails…” on “Jesus”; Lacey pushes forth with bombast on “Degausser” in which he pulls a Kanye West and enlists the services of a children’s choir for a grand chorus. Children’s choirs seem to work under few circumstances. First, they can work as their own entity, where they can be appreciated for exactly what they are: a choir consisting of children. Secondly, they can possibly work backed by a hip hop beat like on Kanye West’s “We Don’t Care” from College Dropout or on an all-time classic like Pink Floyd’s“Another Brick In The Wall”. Unfortunately on Degausser” the mix of innocent children’s voices and Lacey’s grown-up howling is enough to confuse and scar both the listener and these young musicians themselves.

By the time the halfway point of the album is reached, one has to wonder whether or not poor Jesse has ever done anything right in his life. The somber mood and “quiet-loud” routine plays out on “You Don’t Know” and “Welcome To Bangkok”, however on this 3 minute instrumental thrash out the listener is given a short reprieve from the emotional onslaught. On “Untitled”, Brand New hint at a slightly more mature if not obscure sound, which consists of what sounds like a muffled voicemail message and some strings mixed with some hypnotizing guitar-picking.

Album closer “Handcuffs” leaves the listener feeling emotionally drained as Lacey croons to a lost lover that he would “…drown all of these crying babies, if I knew that their mothers wouldn’t cry”. The commitment and passion in Lacey’s voice convince the listener that he would do practically anything to get the object of his desire back. Drowning babies seems a little extreme as previously he seemed to have a good relationship with the younger generation when he called upon a group of children to help him exorcise his demons on “Degausser”.

Nonetheless by the time the album closes one can only applaud Lacey for sharing his new pains, problems and insecurities with us. However, unfortunately it leaves the listener wanting more in terms of variety and musical maturity and growth which they showed glimpses of on a handful of the tracks. The liner notes state that the album “…was recorded in the middle of winter…at Longview farm…”. Surely, that environment helped cast the dark emotional cloud that hangs over “The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me”; too bad that cold barn didn’t house an angry mare that could have kicked Brand New in the pants and forced just a little more out of them.

Rating: 3/5

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