I did one of those things I almost never do, and I'm SOOO glad I did. I picked up a CD from the cover art (right) and title alone. It's Brand New and their 2006 CD, The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me (MySpace). Well actually, I did listen to it for a minute in the store, but I hadn't really looked at reviews and I didn't know much about the music. And to be honest, the cover art isn't that great. It was eye catching and intriguing, especially when combined with the title.
I think I listened to it 3 times in the first 2 days, which is a lot for me. Then I put it away for the weekend in lieu of music better suited for sermon work (Eluvium, etc). I turned it on a little bit ago because I always listen to what I'm reviewing as I'm writing so it's fresh. Oh geez, this stuff grabs you buy the throat and won't let go. It's lyrical lightning, and each shock is welcome.
Brand New are a band out of New York, with roots in the Long Island Independent/Hardcore scene. Their music, at least as experienced on this CD, is emo-ish. But when I think emo I think Fall Out Boy. This blows FOB out of the water. The music is often delicate and depressive, then it shifts to power response. The lyrics are often broken and painful and restrained, but then shifts to total release and exclamation. There is an amazing balance of restraint and then release (a characteristic of much of the music I like). This is a remarkable album and I strongly encourage you to give it a try.
Their opening song, "Sowing Season," is amazing, but then again so is "Millstone" and "Jesus." Actually, I can't think of a single song that makes me want to skip to something else. That's very rare for me even with my favorite bands and albums. The content is regularly filled with religious/Christian content: think Neon Bible-ish but with a different feel and style. These guys speak about inner wrestling and the results. What's the title again?
Here are a few snippits of reviews and lyrics to whet your appetite, but for crying out loud, go to Brand New's MySpace and listen first to "Sowing Season" then "Jesus Christ" and then "Limousine." Then, when you have come to your senses, buy it.
From Drowned In Sound...
Brand New have perfected the quiet/loud dynamic on this record and album opener ‘Sowing Season’ is a perfect example of this: Lacey’s soft, mournful voice mumbles about insecurities amid subtle guitars until the chorus smashes into your brain with a hollering “Yeah!” (and not in a cheesy way, promise). And so begins an album full of delicate power and unrestrained release, leaving you barely a minute to breathe.
The Devil And God… is also an album of opposites and contradictions. ‘Millstone’’s opening lyrics may be full of despair and insecurity but the chorus is pure euphoria. ‘Jesus Christ’ may be a bit self-pitying on occasion, but the mournful guitar and steady drum beat show their softer side.
From All Music Guide...
This record is dark and dense, yet accessible, a shadowy air permeating every crevice where Jesse Lacey's plaintive and often tortured lyrics aren't already residing. He draws listeners in with vulnerable ruminations and questions of love, death, self, and religion, and his vocal inflections bring as much meaning to the table as his carefully chosen words. The opening "Sowing Season" ebbs and flows steadily, moving along under light guitar before exploding with percussion, Lacey ably switching from a hushed delivery into an anguished cry of emotion before falling back down again effortlessly. With it, Brand New sets up the somber intensity of the record straightaway.
From The Village Voice...
Thickly layered instruments and lower-mixed vocals evoke feelings of distance and isolation, and like his fans, 28-year-old frontman Jesse Lacey has done som e growing up—instead of struggling to belt out words through the overwhelming guitar play, he now lets music and lyrics complement each other.
From "Sowing Season"
Nothing gets so bad
That a whisper from your father couldn't fix it
He whispers like a bridge
It’s a river spanned
Take all that you have
And turn it into something you would miss if
Somebody threw that brick
That shattered all your plans
Take me out tonight
This ship of fools I’m on will sink
I’m my own stone around my neck
If you’d be my breathe
There is nothing I wouldn't give
I used to pray like God was listening
I used to make my parents proud
I was the glue that kept my friends together
Now they don't talk and we don't go out
I used to know the name of every person I’d kissed
Now I’ve made this bed and I can't fall asleep in it
From "Jesus Christ"
Jesus Christ, I’m alone again
So what did you do those three days you were dead?
Because this problem is gonna last
More than the weekend
Jesus Christ I’m not scared to die
But I’m a little bit scared of what comes after
Do I get the gold chariot
Or do I float through the ceiling
Or do I divide and pull apart
Cause my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark
This ship went down in sight of land
And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands?
I know you're coming in the night like a thief
But I’ve had some time, O Lord, to hone my lying technique
I know you think that I’m someone you can trust
But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up
So do you think that we could work out a sign
So I’ll know it's you and that it's over so I won't even try
I know you're coming for the people like me
But we all got wood and nails
And we turn out hate in factories
We all got wood and nails
And we turn out hate in factories
We all got wood and nails
And we sleep inside of this machine
Hey, you beauty supreme.
Yeah, you were right about me.
But can I get myself out from underneath
This guilt that will crush me
In the choir, I saw our sad Messiah.
He was bored and tired of my laments.
He said, "I died for you one time, but never again"
Well I love you so much, but do me a favor baby and don’t reply.
Cause I can dish it out, but I can't take it.
You could never work well with our group
Not with faults we found
So we've fixed you with cement galoshes
And no one can save you now
Unless you have friends among fish
There will still be no air to breath
You could drink up the entire ocean
But we'll still find someone to be everything we know that you'll never be.
So touch me or don't
But just let me know
Where you been?