Brand New - FightOffYourDemons (The Demos)
Record Label: Unreleased
Release Date: January 24, 2006
Need I introduce them? Brand New has become a staple of modern alternative and indie rock music, and you can look no further than the site’s threads to confirm that. With each album, the band has been notorious for reinventing themselves while keeping the same quality of excellent musicianship, further darkening lyricism and a sense of secrecy about what the band is up to (or not up to, for that matter).
From the pop-punk that flooded our stereos via Your Favorite Weapon, to the first time we listened to Deja Entendu on a dark car ride home, we continually discovered the records that would go on to define and deny genres. I apologize If I’m being too forward; I’m not claiming Brand New as the greatest musicians that ever lived, and actually, they’re far from it. The fact is, they’ve caught our attention for one reason or another, and their music continues to be praised today for those same reasons. The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me was arguably the band’s magnum opus, while Daisy polarized audiences everywhere, but love it or hate it, they still got your attention. And maybe that’s why nine of the demos that were supposed make up the original Devil and God leaked in January of ’06.
Since then, the band has released statements describing their feelings on the leak and the effect it had on the album. While Garret Tierney felt cautiously optimistic about the interest still being taken in the band’s whereabouts, Jesse Lacey felt violated as an artist and stated the album would feel incomplete without those songs. In the end, most fans got two sets of songs, with the official album arguably going on to be a defining moment in their career. But what would be different had these songs never leaked? Would Brand New had seen the same amount of success, and would the album have fared better or worse than the final product? We may never know, but fortunately, we can still catch a glimpse of what The Devil and God was intended to be.
Sonically, these demos can be seen as both similar and dissimilar to the actual album. Several of the songs (“Mamas”, “Yeah”, “The Edge Takes Over Vin”) went on to make an appearance on the album, albeit in different forms, while the breathtaking, piano-heavy “Fork and Knife” even went on to become a popular B-side and single that saw official release. “Morose and Grieving Pals” is as experimental as anything we’ve heard from the band, but probably not in the sense you're used to; it’s more of an interesting take on storytelling and straightforward homage to Morrissey and The Smiths, as they’re a well-known influence on the band (specifically Lacey). Opening track “A Good Man” is far from anything you hear the band’s LP3, and it’s a damn shame. Musically, these demos vary much more than the actual album, which has a specific and cohesive vibe to it; “A Good Man” is a short, reflective acoustic number filled with beautiful lyricism. “Something dies when you grow older, but you do the best you can,” Lacey croons while accepting the loss of young love.
Among these songs are some of the best the band has ever penned- specifically, “Cleanser” and “Allow Me to Admit”.“Cleanser” is a seven-minute masterpiece featuring the signature dark guitar-lines we’ve come to love from Vin Accardi, holding its verses back at a quiet and intriguingly slow pace. A haunting pre-chorus of “Tear you up/Take what youlove/ And burn it down, burn it down” plays before erupting into a brooding chorus, all building up to the song’s downright menacing guitar-solo climax.“Allow Me to Admit” could easily have fit on Deja Entendu, beginning with odd electronic instrumentation before bursting into one of catchiest choruses Brand New’s ever written; “Until I awake, we just hope that you’ve made it/We hope that you’re celebrating with people you’ve missed/And burning like a beacon, guiding our ship around this hellish shoal/I’m happy to admit that maybe I am a little depressed/’Cause I’m missing you death”. It’s a perfect combination of heavy lyricism (not to mention a great line about Van Gogh’s ear) and upbeat musicianship, which makes for an excellently executed and fun bridge and outro.
The production of these songs are a bit of a moot point, seeing as they weren’t yet ready to see the light of day. Several of the songs are acoustic renditions, and while the core of “Mamas (Luca)” and “Yeah (Sowing Season)” remain the same, the latter especially is a gem for Brand New fans and is just as good as its full-band counterpart. “Brothers” has surfaced, via live shows, as another song entitled “Coca-Cola”, (sometimes written backwards) and it’s simple lyricism makes it another beautifully written/performed ballad from Lacey. Meanwhile, “The Edge Takes Over Vin” features slower verses that build up to its chorus in comparison to the urgent verses of “The Archers Bows Have Broken”. This rendition is a perfect way to end the demos, proving to be just as good (if not better) than its official version.
So, where does this leave us? I’m not urging you to download these demos, although you probably already have. They’re no better, or worse than the album; they’re different, and while the album we got may be The Devil and GodAre Raging Inside Me, its enticing to look back on what that record could have been had the circumstances been different. Chances are, at least for this music fan, that either way, the band would have penned another classic that went on to be dissected for another three-to-five years. You may now resume your regular speculation.