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Brand New - The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me
|"The poet leaves his song half sung, or finishes it, beyond the scope of mortal ears, in a celestial choir. The painter - as Allston did - leaves half his conception on the canvas to sadden us with its imperfect beauty, and goes to picture forth the whole, if it be no irreverence to say so, in the hues of heaven. But rather such incomplete designs of this life will be perfected nowhere. This is so frequent abortion of man's dearest projects must be taken as a proof that the deeds of earth, however etherealized by piety or genius, are without value, except as exercises and manifestations of the spirit. In heaven, all ordinary thought is higher and more melodious than Milton's song. Then, would he add another verse to any strain that he had left unfinished here?" - Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Artist of the Beautiful"|
Why begin a Brand New review with a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne? Put simply, they both as artists recognized that the end result of an artists work differs greatly from the thing he set out to create.
"The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me" has been called many things, among them "disappointing" and "great". The album is neither one of these. It is a different approach to music than Brand New had taken with either of their previous two records - instead of recording a "normal" album, they used their album as a vehicle to explore their inner fears.
Along with Nathaniel Hawthorne, and other great artists, Brand New struggled with the perception of the incompleteness of their work. Jesse, being the one that seems to construct most of the songs, had the most visible doubts about the about the record when interviewed by their street team.
"The worst was calling it finished."
"I think it still isn't."
But Jesse's perception was added to by the leaking of the infamous demos that permeated the internet and ruined the silence that allowed Brand New to work alone with their thoughts. Jesse seemed to feel violated as an artist, and the lack of some of the demos from the album has been decried by fans. Truly, the record does feel incomplete, but more so to Jesse because his creations are absent.
"This record already feels incomplete to me without those tracks and probably will forever."
The album itself differs entirely from the previous release from Brand New. "Deja Entendu" was hailed as a modern rock miracle - meaningful lyrics, well played instruments, and a fitting flow to the album. It becomes clear to a listener in the first seconds of "Sowing Season" that Brand New has moved from poetic to self-critical.
"I am on a mend. / At least now I can say that I am trying. "
The album's intentions are entirely different, and therefore must be regarded in a completely different light. Instead of the flow of "Deja Entendu", the album seems to jump, and different songs provide different meanings. The interruption of the demos may have played a part, or may not have. It is impossible for anyone to say, even Jesse really, because he himself conceptualized an album that he never would have made. Following the logic of Hawthorne, Jesse would have felt poorly about the album regardless of the demos.
"Left to ourselves, we probably would have been more self-indulgent and released something that wasn't financially in anyone's interest."
Instead of a follow-up to "Deja Entendu", Brand New created an album that examined themselves, departing from their past two albums that tended to examine the world around them. Jesse has sought a new topic, moving away from the overwritten love angst, turning instead to self questioning.
"I used to be such a burning example, / I used to be so original.
I used to care, I was being careful. / Made sure I showed it to those that I love."
It is here that the album shines: in Jesse's self-criticisms. The music itself is as good as that of "Deja Entendu", but the passion underlying the tracks is haunting, and adds a dimension to the music much like the jealousy and pain shown on "Deja Entendu." It seems as if Jesse is persecuting himself for his sins, instead of lashing out at the world around him. The album as a whole does not consistently address this, but we must consider the track listing, with the composers of the respective tracks (taken from the CD liner notes):
sowing season - va / jl
millstone - jl
jesus - jl
degausser - va / jl / bl / gt
limousine (ms rebridge) - jl
you wont know - jl
welcome to bangkok - va
not the sun va - jl
luca - jl
the archers bows have broken - jl
handcuffs - va
Put simply, on "The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me", Vin Acardi played a much larger role in composing many of the songs than he probably ever has before.
I would make the argument, therefore, that the standout tracks of the album are the ones credited solely to Jesse: "Millstone", "Jesus", "Limousine (MS Rebridge)", "You Won't Know", "Luca", and "The Archer's Bows Have Broken". Not that the other tracks are weak - they simply lack the depth that the tracks that Jesse provided do.
"Sowing Season" has great moments - but as a track suffers from a whimper and bang style that has too much whimper without a bang. "Degausser" - which Jesse admires for being the only song the band ever wrote together in one room - seems to fit the record's overall message, but seems to lack the musicianship and meaningful lyrics that Jesse's own creations boast.
"Welcome to Bangkok" is a beautiful instrumental, and fits well between "You Won't Know" and "Not the Sun". Without Jesse, however, the song seems to serve as a bridge, instead of a message, which, although pleasing musically, detracts from the album's message. "Not the Sun", although a solid track, seems to beckon more to the teenage angst of "Your Favorite Weapon" than to the searching, desperate feeling enveloping "The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me".
"Handcuffs", in itself, shows the difference between Vin and Jesse as musicians. Their difference as artists is negligible, but real. In essence, Jesse can create a song as an idea, whereas Vin writes notes that fit along with his words. Not to say that Vin is a lacking musician - far from it. His songs stand out even when taken out of the context of the album. But the songs Jesse writes are so much more coherent, and lasting, that a listener can tell - even without knowing it - that they are listening to his work. The personal appeal is the greatest sound - not the technicality of the instruments. The songs themselves have deeper meaning - which divides the greatest art from the merely good, in this case, Jesse from Vin.
"It was the same process, essentially, of someone [my opinion: probably Jesse] bringing an almost completed song to the rest of the band, and then the four of us hashing out the specifics of it: the tempo, the changes, etc." (In my words, the things that make Vin, Brian, and Garrett so valuable).
On "Handcuffs": "All the music and lyrics for "Handcuffs" was finished by Vin when he brought it."
Jesse's songs, therefore, are ideas that need to be refined, as opposed to Vin's more complete songs that lack the overarching meaning.
In the end, the album is a struggle, and its clearly evident in both its pace and its arrangements. The band, instead of developing their talents shown on "Deja Entendu", internalizes them, and attempts to address their deeper struggles in their songs. But their key moment never comes, and the album struggles to find a climax - or even an epic point at which the listener recognizes this album as a descendent of "Deja Entendu".
Instead of the spilt-over passion of their previous release, Brand New finds an anti-climax, promptly losing the fervor unleashed at the end of "Luca" in the midst of the untitled track. To continue the comparison to "Deja Entendu", the album never hits the frenzied pounding that is "Guernica" - instead Brand New has given us an untitled track that dissolves the tension, and has no effect in bridging the gap between the last two songs and the rest of the album. instead, "The Archer's..." and "Handcuffs" contrast each other, with Jesse and Vin's writing abilities contrasted, instead of the resolution provided by the crescendoed "If I Ever Need Attention..." followed by the haunting strums of "Play Crack the Sky".
In essence, Brand New has followed a beautifully constructed album with a patchwork of "various recordings" - so says the cd booklet. The end result is something of a misnomer - these recordings are not a whole. Instead, different songs explore different visceral pathways of the members - whether solitary ("Handcuffs", "Jesus") or shared ("Degausser") fears.
"There were more individual songs on this album that were either written by just one of us, or, by all of us together"
The end result is something of a personal record (in both meanings) - a personal recollection of fears and demons. Instead of sonic beauty, the members attempted to entrap their internal battles into their best known avenue - music.
In the end they succeed, but the music comes in a far different sense than most would expect. Surely Brand New could have written a more pleasing record to our ears, but it would not have been the record they themselves conceptualized. Therefore, we are left with their recordings, to ponder upon their demons in the form of drumbeats and d chords. Brand New has created the record they strove to create, but the result may be something less than they are musically capable of.
"If changes [...] in a person's real life don't reflect themselves in his art, then I think it is the audience's responsibility to ask why not. What is the appeal of someone who never learns anything or ever answers a question? Or worse, someone who never has a question? Or then what would the appeal be of someone who learns everything but never shares it?"
(All unattributed quotes either from Brand New lyrics or street team interview. All quotes from interview from Jesse.)
11:17 AM on 12/09/06
this album is better then an 84.
12:04 PM on 12/09/06
vin only wrote the lyrics to handcuffs, jesse wrote the music
12:10 PM on 12/09/06
this cd cant be reviewed, its way to epic
12:37 PM on 12/09/06
no cd is too epic to the point where it cant be reviewed.
01:59 PM on 12/09/06
You're wrong. Vin wrote the lyrics and music.
02:44 PM on 12/09/06
agreed. the reviewer obviously hasn't listened to it enough. the first few times i listened to it, i mighta given it an 84...but this album gets better EVERY single time i hear it.
02:53 PM on 12/09/06
this album is WAY better than an 84. 90-95 imo....good review except the score
05:48 PM on 12/09/06
every artist (musically speaking) usually tries to convey parts of their own life and how they live it through their music...the bad thing is that alot of labels turn down probly more then 90% of what they first hear because its "not marketable" and they wont make a share off of it...in this area, i believe is where most artists lose their originality and/or first ideas which are usually the best ones...not in all cases, but most of them...but to me personally Brand New has always been the complete opposite of that...they seem to always strive on what isnt marketable not becauce they are trying to create it that way, but because they simply just write for them selves rather then try ansd guess what could be the next huge thing...and thats how they have made their musical career..
Also, I dont think anyone could or should be able to review any Brand New record off of one listen, because its simply not possible...all the albums by them i have never completely enjoyed straight away, not once...theyve taken more and more listens to end up loving them..the problem with most people today is that if they dont like what they hear right away or within a few seconds, they will completely swearoff the artist altogether..and thats where i think Brand New loses alot of fans..
I respect brand new alot because all they like to do is tour, and that to me is what makes a band great...being on the road with self-promotion (notice that they havent had any music videos, hardly any radio play, any interviews anywhere, or anything remotely related with this record)..they only have very wide distribution and then their live show to back it up...thats where alot of bands go wrong..
I love their new record because it is dark, but it is very, very good..the guitar work and drums are all perfect and even though parts of the album may seem to be "strange" a couple of times..thats just Brand New..and im excited and cant wait to see them live again.
10:58 PM on 12/09/06
I agree that this album needs to be taken in a completely different light. Only then can you appreciate it. I think it's some of the best stuff that they've ever written by far- it doesn't have the most favor, but it's some of the best.
I also think it deserves more than an 84. 95 would be a bit high, but 84 is brutal!
12:53 AM on 12/10/06
low 90's. i was impartial to it at first then after a few more spins it just grew on me. i can't stop listening to it anymore :/.
01:14 AM on 12/10/06
the cd is so good, it needs song reviews..
07:52 AM on 12/10/06
|"Put simply, on "The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me", Vin Acardi played a much larger role in composing many of the songs than he probably ever has before."|
This is not true. Aside from writing a complete song, Vinnie wrote just as much as he had on deja. He co-wrote 5 songs on deja and co-wrote 4 on tdag, along with writing handcuffs on tdag, for 5.
11:48 AM on 12/10/06
Can I be the first one to say that that was a well-writen review? It highlighted a few problems I had with the album that I couldn't find words for initially, and no other reviews had helped with (except - to some degree - the Stylus one).
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