Monday, June 27, 2011

Record Club #2 -- Brand New

Understanding my love for The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me (the album name was based on the troubled singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston and the well-known psychological problems he faced/s) might be a little clearer when studied in the larger Brand New context. It’s also going to be a bit of a journey so hang with me. When I was in college, emo was all the rage. Now, one of the most criminal misnomers in all of music was labeling things emo that didn’t truly represent emo. There was, I assure you, some genuine emo music out there that sounds nothing like the bands that get labeled emo today. So, Brand New was pretty emo. Their first record, Your Favorite Weapon, contained all of the usual elements – pithy song titles (“Jude Law and a Semester Abroad”), “woe is me” pity songs, and “girls are evil” revenge songs – that you would come to expect from a run-of-the-mill emo band. However, there was something different buried beneath Brand New’s banal sound: the lyrics. Frontman Jesse Lacey and guitar player Vin Acardi (the latter who had a much reduced role until The Devil and God…but more on that later) weren’t content with being run-of-the-mill, so they peppered their songs with some honest lyrics that made the ho-hum sound of the songs stand out because you wanted to belt out these odd words.

After Your Favorite Weapon put Brand New on the map, they began work on their second album, Deja Entendu. Deja Entendu was an interesting attempt to reinvent themselves after just one album. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Lacey and co. show on their sophomore album great maturity musically (even if it still is pretty basic, not lending itself to many repeat listens, and still containing those long, pithy song titles like “I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”), but it’s, again, in the lyrics that make the album seem a lot better than it is. Lacey’s words are so self-reflexive and self-deprecating on the album that it’s no wonder on the next album we find him at his nadir. Consider these words from “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light,” probably the best song on Deja Entendu:

I write more postcards than hooks/I read more maps than books/I feel like every chance to leave is another chance I should have took/ Every minute is a mile/I’ve never felt so hollow/I’m an old, abandoned church with broken pews and empty aisles/My secrets for a buck/Watch me as I cut myself wide open on this stage, oh I am paid to spill my guts/I won’t see home ‘till Spring/Oh, I would kill for the Atlantic, but I am paid to make girls panic while I sing.

All throughout their sophomore album, Brand New reflect on what it is to be popular in “the scene.” They admit to loving it (from the same song: “Know we do this ‘cause we care not for the thrill.”), but one gets the sense while listening to Deja Entendu that they weren’t doing it on their terms; that they wanted to be more than just people who make girls scream. You got the sense that they weren’t satisfied with how people viewed them as musicians. Lacey literally warns us of the change to come with the final song “Play Crack the Sky” where he sings “this is the end…” as a final nail in the Deja Entendu coffin. Things are going to be different.

And even though Deja Entendu was light years better musically than Your Favorite Weapon, they still had work to do and something to prove. This reflection and overall dissatisfaction with the process and workings of the music machine (and the inadequacies that the creators of that work feel during the process) would be fine-tuned during the next evolutionary step for the band – a three year-plus process of writing, recording, scrapping songs, and starting over anew – allowing them to come to terms with their imperfection and finally complete and release their magnum opus.

So, that brings us to 2006 and the release of The Devil and God and the obvious evolution the band undertook while making this album. A quick note before we get there: In 2005, Brand New was all set to release the album when some of the tracks, still unfinished, leaked. Lacey was so distraught by the idea that people were listening to works in progress (and that they would have pre-conceived notions of the songs based on shitty sounding demos) that he scrapped all of the songs that leaked and wrote new ones (or, in the case of “Sowing Season” and “Luca,” drastically altered them). I think this attributes to the allure of the album; this is one of the things that make the album so elusive because it never feels like the full, completed project the band wanted to make (which might account for some of the odd choices in track order). Lacey even stated that he felt that the record feels “incomplete without those tracks and probably will forever.” So, it’s interesting because we’ll never know how good those tracks were or could have been and what kind of an album they would have made the then-titled Fight Off Your Demons. What we have in The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is more than antiquate, though, and an album that – however “incomplete” it may be – I am eternally grateful for.

Knowing that Lacey was really affected by the leaked songs and knowing his penchant for self-deprecating lyrics from previous albums, one of the things that makes the album so intriguing is that we’re never quite sure if this is Lacey’s deepest personal demons (the original title for the album was Fight Off Your Demons) being exposed for all to hear, or if this is just Lacey and co. frustration with the recording process (note the voice of the producer at the end of “Limousine” asking about the production) and subsequent leaks of songs they then felt they had to alter. Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s presented the way it is. Sometimes great art isn’t about the finished product sounding polished; sometimes it’s all about the process of making that piece of art. And with The Devil and God, we get an album that aurally reminds me a lot of Radiohead’s The Bends (the ends of “Limousine” and “Luca” sound a lot like the guitar riff from “Just”) and thematically of an Ingmar Bergman film (I love the line from “Jesus Christ,” “Jesus Christ I’m alone again/And what did you do those three days you were dead/Because this problems going to last more than the weekend”; or, the line from “Limousine,” “And in the choir/I saw a sad Messiah/He was bored and tired of my laments/He said, ‘I’ll die for you one time but never again.’” ) There have been plenty of misnomers that people have used when trying to describe this album – too difficult, dark, disjointed, noisy for the sake of being noisy, etc. – and sure, it’s a little messy and the track order seems just a touch off (there really only seems to be one track that seems entirely out of place, “You Are Not the Sun”), but damn if it isn’t lovely and dark and strange in its messiness.

Getting to the tracks: I think one of the most notable differences (for the better) on the band’s third album is the growing presence of Acardi as a writer and lyricist. Lacey reached out to his bandmate, and sharing the duties with Acardi was one of the best things Lacey did because even though he only wrote a few of the songs (“Sowing Season (Yeah)” and “Degausser” as well as the musical “Welcome to Bangkok” to name the best ones), it is his influence on the style that make The Devil and God stand out musically from other Brand New albums (Acardi would take over writing duties for the fantastic follow-up to this album, 2009s Daisy, an album completely different from this one…which is a good thing). The opening tracks (a track that I always think is key to any album, and was apparent in Ed’s choice with The Congo’s wonderfully catchy “Fisherman”) are about as close as Brand New gets to their older sound, yet still sounding more mature and assured in their musicianship and song writing. No longer are the words about busted relationships and teenage angst; instead, “Sowing Season (Yeah)” opens quietly, luring the listener into thinking that this is the old Brand New, before bursting with guitars and Lacey’s trademark scream as he yells “Yeah!” as if he’s assuring us that, even if he isn’t entirely confident in the album, he has no qualms about presenting these songs as they are to his audience (“I am on a mend/At least now I can say that I am trying.”).

“Milestone” is another song that sounds like it could have been from Deja Entendu. The lyrics are distinctly Lacey (“I used to be such a burning example/I used to be so original/I used to care I was being cared for/Make sure I show it to those that I love.”) and I love the pounding of the drums during each verse. These first two tracks set the course for what becomes Lacey and co. absolute deconstruction. The band then heads into “Jesus Christ” which is a song that sounds like a completely different band.

I’ve already quoted my favorite part of “Jesus Christ” above; however, one more thing I can say about the song is just how damn haunting it is. I love that Lacey feels like he never has to amp up the song; it’s just a steady beat throughout (only his voice rises near the end), and again I invoke Radiohead as this song reminds me of the almost comatose “No Surprises” from Ok Computer; it’s an eerie, steady song that knows that it doesn’t have to do anymore than it’s doing with its basic sound. The antithesis of this track is found in the follow up, “Degausser.” This track (which the entire band wrote together in one room) is all about the best elements of the quiet/loud dynamic that Brand New loves to employ on this album and Lacey’s sharp lyrics (“Take me, take me back to your bed/I love you so much that it hurts my head/I don’t mind you under my skin/I’ll let the bad part in, oh, the bad part’s in/When we were made we were set apart/Life is a test and I get bad marks/Now some saint has got the job of writing down my sins/The storm is coming, the storm is coming in.”). It’s an eerie song (the one really good thing the choir adds to it) with its layered vocals and guitar that signals once and for all the tonal shift of the album.

Where Brand New was once predictable in their “quiet then loud” sound, they mix it up a bit on The Devil and God and add in percussion or layers of vocals and guitars in the background during the quiet moments (or a Theremin like in Luca and Untitled). It’s easy to see why the album took them so long to release as they were constantly tinkering with their sound and adding elements to each song. Now, just adding “stuff” to make the album seem more layered and complex isn’t what makes it good. I actually think Brand New are perfectionists to a fault. In some songs, there’s too much going on (the choir, aside from adding an eerie element, is a bit distracting in “Degausser” or the extra little riff at the end of “Limousine”), but these are small nits to pick when considering the album within the band’s context. This is such a giant leap in creativity, musicianship, and maturity that I’m willing to acquiesce to their creative over-indulgences since I think the album, as a whole, works brilliantly in evoking the type of mood they set out to create.

Following “Degausser,” “Limousine” is the next track, and here it is apparent that there isn’t really any kind of interlocking theme to the album’s tracks. One of its elusive qualities is that it jumps around in sound and theme; it’s hard to put your finger on where this album is coming from and what it’s trying to say. And I think that’s because Brand New don’t even know what it’s trying to say. Some songs are more clearly defined than others whether they’re talking about themselves, God, or, as is the case with “Limousine,” the brutal death of 7-year old Katie Flynn told from multiple perspectives. This isn’t an album about “death” or about “God” or about any other label; it contains multitudes.  “Limousine” is one of the album’s premier examples of this approach as the song seems like a downward spiral into darkness as the song just keeps repeating itself at the end until it finally does away with the lyrics and explodes with loud guitars before fading out with the sound of their producer, Mike Sapone, calling them about the status of their album. The song is powerful as it examines the heartbreaking story of Katie Flynn – a 7-year old girl killed by a drunk driver as she was riding in a limo coming back from a family wedding – told from the perspective of an omniscient observer, Katie’s mother, and the man responsible for killing Katie, Martin Heidgen (only 25-years old). The aforementioned lines from the song (“…I’d die you for one time but never again.”) are sung from Heidgen’s perspective. Read the linked stories above, then read the lyrics, and then listen to the song again; you’ll see why I think this is a powerful, difficult song that I sometimes have to skip.

“You Won’t Know” is probably the most existential and nihilistic Lacey has been. One of my favorite tracks on the album, the song is another great of the quiet/loud dynamic as Lacey begins with a quiet invitation (“Hey, hey, hey mister hangman/Go get your rope.”) backed by a haunting, repetitive guitar riff before a subtle symbol and some percussion kicks in. Then, utilizing some great production, it’s as if all of those sounds are put in a jar and shaken violently as the song erupts with Lacey’s screams and the bands’ wailing instruments. It’s also a lyrical highlight as Lacey gets all existential on us with lines like, “I wish I could tell you right now (that I love you)/But it looks like I won’t be around/So you won’t know.”; or, “So they say, they say in heaven there’s no husbands and wives/ on the day I show up they’ll be out of their forgiveness supply/And I can’t use the telephone/To tell you that I’m dead and gone/So you won’t know.” The song ends with the same eerie guitar riff and Lacey’s uttering of “you won’t know” over and over to add a piece of punctuation to the string of four songs (starting with “Jesus Christ”) that seems to flow well together.

The next two tracks showcase the best of Acardi the songwriter even if they seem odd on this particular album (and I admit I’m biased because I’m making this statement in hindsight considering I’m taking into account my love of the Acardi-written Daisy) . “Welcome to Bangkok” is a great, messy instrumental song that matches the tone of the album to that point. However, “Not the Sun” seems to be from a completely different planet.  It doesn’t really mesh with the previous five songs (the closest things to a concept – they’re all about death – on this album) and feels more at home on a b-side or on their follow up album. It’s not that it’s a bad song; it’s just that it feels completely out of place. Again, it’s a nit to pick. The album is messy; I think Brand New wanted it that way. But, “Not the Sun” is a song that takes me out of the album. (Note: “Not the Sun” was a replacement song, written post-leaked demos, so who knows what would have been in its place had the demos not leaked.)

However, the album almost restarts (it’s almost as if Brand New understands that the listener needs a break from all the darkness) in a big way with the standout track, “Luca”. I love the guitar in this song, and I love the way that Lacey lulls us into a false sense of security with this song before blowing it all up at the end. The ethereal opening to the song punctuated by the blaring, heavy ending is one of the best examples of Brand New’s penchant for quiet/loud dichotomy. “Luca” then transitions into a much maligned track but one that I absolutely love. I think “Untitled” is one of the strangest and most brilliant things Lacey has written. I don’t know what it is doing on the album (it really has no link to any other song) other than it sounds cool and elusive and weird. The use of the Theremin is a nice touch as well as the heavily muffled lyrics of Lacey (“I can never love you/I can never reach you.") who sounds like he’ being smothered by a pillow. I love the little glitches and odd production noises found throughout this song. It’s a short, strange (and some would say needless) track, but I love it.

The next track, “The Archers Bows Are Broken,” is probably the one track on the album that sounds most like a radio-made single. Along with “Jesus Christ,” it’s probably the most accessible track on the record.  It’s catchy as hell and shows that Lacey doesn’t just have to write dark, but he can also write pop songs with the best of them. It’s the right tone, too, for the penultimate song as the listener has waded through a lot of heavy stuff and deserves something a little lighter and more upbeat. Which brings me to the final track, “Handcuffs.” Damn is this a hard song to listen to. Oh, I like the strings and I like the creepy way Lacey quietly sings lyrics like, “I’d drown all these crying babies/If I knew that their mothers wouldn’t cry/I’d hold them down and squeeze real soft/And let a piece of myself die.” However, the song is so bizarre and depressing that it takes its toll on this listener. I will say this, though: it’s the perfect ending to an album that seems to mostly be about devolving and Lacey being at his lowest point (“I’d drive my car off of a bridge/If I knew that you weren’t inside.”) both creatively and interpersonally.

So, I’ve written nearly 3,000 words, and I’ve probably bored you all to tears, and I still can’t put my finger on what I love about this album. Which I guess, going back to the very beginning of this thing, is indeed what I love about this album. What did you all think? What were your initial thoughts versus your later thoughts? Did you get through the album upon first listen? What were your favorite/least favorite things about the album? Standout tracks?


  1. First off Kevin, thanks for hosting the second record club and choosing a very interesting album that should prompt some good discussion. Considering our past conversations about modern hardcore/post-hardcore bands like At the Drive-In and the Blood Brothers, I was half-hoping that you'd be picking something like that for this discussion (I'd love to hear the thoughts of non-hardcore fans on something so wild) but it strikes me that Brand New is an interesting middle point between those types of bands and something more accessible. I've never heard anything from Brand New besides this album, but from reading up on them online and from your post, I gather that their previous albums were more straightforward emo/pop-punk fare. This album seems like a halfway point in that it takes that lineage and makes it more complex and dark, while taking the obvious influence of post-hardcore and smoothing out some of its extremes, making it more accessible. The result is edgy and emotionally intense, but also very melodic and, I think, should be broadly appealing even to those who don't usually listen to music in this area.

    It sounds to me like the work of a band with something to prove, and your discussion of the band's creative progress and approach to this album seems to confirm that. I was reminded more than a few times of Modest Mouse circa The Moon and Antarctica: a formerly pretty straightforward band self-consciously taking their sound to the next level and complicating their songwriting. It's exciting to hear something like that, to hear a band pushing at their own limits and comfort zones, really striving to make something lasting. Of course, that kind of self-consciousness can also be distracting and a band trying that hard to make a big statement could easily fall on its face, but I don't think that's the case here. The band come across as earnest, and even though I seldom really got what the songs were actually about except in a general sense, I could feel the emotional intensity that they brought to all these tracks.

    Anyway, I'm sure I'll have more to say later but for now I just want to say that I liked the album a lot. It's a little too "mainstream guitar rock" to be something I would've sought out or listened to on my own, and though I found it instantly appealing and enjoyable, I initially wondered if it would hold up over more listens. But now that I've spent some time with it (and I've listened to it a lot in the last month, and have had it on repeat all morning now) I've found it to be pretty rich and enduring. I'm not crazy about every song ("Not the Sun," which you picked out as an outlier, doesn't do much for me) but the best tracks here are damn good. I especially love "Jesus," which is just a great example of a carefully controlled slow burn. It never quite gets *loud* but slowly builds in intensity until it climaxes with that nearly irresistable chant-along "we've all got wood and nails," which is such a perfectly economical expression of the human eagerness to crucify, literally or figuratively, our fellow people. (It's great even though I'm not quite sure what he says next, something about "hate factories" that even a lyrics search hasn't clarified because everyone seems to have a different idea about what the line is.) I also quite like the propulsive, catchy "The Archers Bows Have Broken" and a bunch of other tracks here.

    Good choice, Kevin, and a great introduction. I can't wait to see what others think.

  2. Kevin,

    This is not an album I ever would have sought out, as it ranges very far afield from my musical interests. However, I'm glad to have heard it, and appreciate the melodic qualities that had me nodding my head and even tapping my toe at times. I can see how plugged in to the sentiments of this emo music you are, but again, I found the lyrics difficult to understand and found myself relying more on the musical dynamics to understand the emotion of the album. I have to admit that everything started to sound a bit samey to me and that my attention wandered, and I was initially put off by the soft/loud approach when I heard the first song. I turned it off immediatedly and said, this can't be listened to first thing in the morning! But there does seem to be something distinctive about the music, in the way that I listened to several grunge bands back in the day and identified Pearl Jam as the only one that didn't sound like something I'd heard before. There is an ineffable something that makes this album stand out in a crowd. As for whether it hangs together as a single statement, I'll leave that to others to decide. I'm not someone who necessarily looks at an album and says that it has to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Only a true story album like "The Grand Wazoo" works for me that precisely. Overall, nice choice, and your article really helped me understand the artists and their drives.

  3. Thanks, Ed.

    I actually thought about doing a Blood Brothers album, but I thought it would be a little too jarring for just the second record club entry, hehe. Hopefully as this thing evolves, people will get a little crazier with their choices.

    Now, about the album: I'm glad you liked it, and I like what you say about how the album feels like a middle ground of the post-hardcore albums you and I have talked about before (specifically At the Drive-In and Blood Brothers). I'm especially glad you saw this as being an earnest effort from the band. It's easy for someone like me who has followed the band from day one to be impressed with the evolution of the band because I've basically grown and evolved with them over the years. So, I was glad to see that you got the sense from this album that they were indeed pushing themselves, and even though it can sometimes come off as being too obvious, it's nothing if not genuine.

    As for "Jesus Chritst" (or "Jesus" depending on where you look...another mysterious thing about this album is that I've never been able to pin down proper track titles...all I know is the track titles I listed are how they are on the CD I bought in 2006), I've never been able to pin down the lyrics, either. When I bought the CD in 2006, the album didn't come with liner notes. The best I've been able to gather from it (and the one online search that I think makes sense) is that he's saying: "We turn out hate in factories." I think the inaudibility of some of the tracks words adds to the mystery (and allure, for me) of the album. This is most evident in the odd, "Untitled."

    Back to "Jesus Christ," the slow burn is the best thing about it, and it's probably, from a popular standpoint, the most listened to and talked about song on the album when I recommend it to people. When I worked at a coffee shop I put it on a playlist for the cafe, and I would always get people asking me what it was.

    I think that's a tribute to Brand New's pop appeal while tweaking things so they're a little darker. I like what you say, Ed, when you mention that this album seems to be a band that has something to prove (I also really like your allusion to Modest Mouse). I think they wanted to show that dark and complex didn't have to be unapproachable. They do indeed push themselves on this album, and I think that it's that passion and earnestness that make it so the album doesn't feel too contrived (or, as you say, fall on its face).

    I'm glad you're letting the album get under your skin. It's such an addictive album. I'm curious what you thought of my other favorite tracks, "Limousine" and "Luca" (and the weird "Untitled")?

  4. Marilyn:

    The "samey" factor is something I think we're all going to have to deal with at some point during these conversations. I'm guessing you were feeling that around track five or six (the middle section does sound like one big song as many of them bleed together) the same way I was feeling that at times with Ed's first choice, The Congos. I think the reason for that is that when we come to new music that we haven't been initiated in -- and spend hours of our life enjoying -- it's hard for us to hear the nuances in the songs that, to the uninitiated, just sound the same.

    Now, understand I'm not by any means stating this as a criticism, it's just the truth when it comes to listening to music outside of our comfort zones. I know I'll be saying the same thing at some point during these conversations.

    You're absolutely spot-on about the "ineffable something" that makes this album stand out amongst other sounds like this one. I link this back to what Ed was saying: this is an earnest album. And so many bands of this genre are disingenuous when it comes to making this kind of music. They feel like they want to make something epic or dark because that's what the flavor of the month it. It's not personal for them, and, more importantly, they aren't doing it to push themselves creatively. Brand New doesn't fall into this trap, and because of that they stand above their peers as a band that is really trying to do something with their sound.

    Their follow-up album, Daisy, was met with lukewarm results, but I loved it because it wasn't just another attempt to make The Devil and God.... Again, they were reinventing and pushing their artistic abilities to create a sound that doesn't simply just repeat what they've already done. Daisy is a lot louder than this album, but it fits that grunge comparison you make nicely. It's also an easier, more straight-forward album to digest. Yet it made them standout because they went back to basics while their peers were trying to emulate The Devil and God... and other albums of its ilk, and it's as if Brand New is stating that they don't want to do what everyone else is doing. I appreciate that from a band that has been on the cusp of the mainstream and, essentially, turned their back on it. But I digress...

    I'm really glad you gave this album a listen, Marilyn. I'm curious which songs had you "tapping your toe?"

  5. "Not the Sun." The back beat is irresistible.

  6. Yeah, that back beat is great. I just don't think the song really "fits" on the album...but again, that's part of the charm of it all. I would highly recommend Daisy, Marilyn, if you liked that song.

    Try to find "In a Jar", I think you would really like that song (I couldn't find a studio version on Youtube, though).


    "At the Bottom":

    And the weird..."Be Gone":

  7. I'm listening to the album again now, and it really does take repeat listens to appreciate the nuances, as you suggest. When I first heard "Jesus," I thought Pink Floyd's "The Wall," but it's a much more mature song than PF's. I don't think I like the musicality of it more, and I'm not crazy about it in general, frankly, but it is more personally touching.

  8. Many call them an American Radiohead (are you a fan?), and I do the same in my intro. I don't know if I can follow that comparison (to Radiohead, that is) all the way, but I definitely see this album sounding a bit like The Bends. And it does seem that "Jesus Christ" is an intensely personal song...what it's in reference to -- why it's so personal -- is anyone's guess, though, because Lacey never elaborates.

  9. Great write-up here, Kevin. It's actually given me a lot more insight into the process of the band in making this album and helped to flesh out some of the songs (many of which seemed pretty cryptic to me).

    Brand New are at an interesting crossroads in my musical taste. I'm certainly predispositioned to guitar driven rock music, but I tend to stay away from the more (and I apologize if I use this term too often, because it's kind of a crutch in describing this style of music) emo oriented bands. Those type of bands tend to orient their music and lyrics to a younger base with problems and issues that I can't really relate to anymore. So I was a bit skeptical of Brand New to begin with, even while knowing I'd enjoy the musical hooks and the quiet/loud song dynamics (I'm an easy mark for that type of song structure).

    However I can easily say that this is definitely a departure from the standard emo style of songwriting. Sure it's overly earnest and seemingly ripped from a journal entry, but it's dealing with a lot more mature subject matter. It's like an emo kid has grown up and now is dealing with the real world and not the insular one of a self-obsessed teenager. More Sunny Day Real Estate and less Jimmy Eat World (probably bad comps, but oh well).

    I too was a bit confused about the album's song order, so I'm glad you gave that information on the album's production as a reason for why it's a little scattered. I'd may come back later to comment song-by-song, but I'd say that all the songs are at least partially successful, save for "Not the Sun," which was a little to "90's rock" for my liking and felt way, way out of place. My favorite song was "Jesus Christ", but I have been listening to the opening 4 songs repeatedly, as I think they are all quite strong.

    Not sure how I can listen to "Limousine" again without getting a sick feeling -- that's one depressing story to read.

    All in all, this was a big success of an album. I'm wary to try anything prior to this album from Brand New, since you say this is the outlier in their output, but I'll likely give their new album a spin.

  10. Also, I don't really see American Radiohead at all. There are a couple hooks that reminded me of them, with "Luca" being the only song that could really point to the comparison. But I could say the same about a LOT of bands who have taken aspects of Radiohead's style and incorporated it into their music.

    As I posted in my other comment, my two points of reference were with other bands in this genre, Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World. I don't see the music branching out too far from that norm to any kind of Radiohead area.

  11. Ha, Troy, I guess my age really does show that I thought "Not the Sun" hooked me better. I really don't like rock music very much, so I'm always looking for some kind of melodic hook or some really good lyrics. As for Radiohead, I wouldn't know them if their most famous song came on the radio (no pun intended). I've basically dropped out of the rock scene entirely and hardly had a foot in it to begin with anyway.

  12. I like "Limousine" a lot too, Kevin. It's a very epic song, starting out calm and eerie, then exploding before settling into another of those slow-burn build-ups. As you and Marilyn have said, the loud/soft dynamics on this album are pretty basic and have been done to death by tons of other bands and movements (prog, grunge, early 2000s post-rock) but there's a certain inherent drama in that kind of structure and they make good use of it, especially here since they're not simply ratcheting between the two extremes but allowing the song to organically move between them. "Luca" doesn't do a whole lot for me: as Troy says about "Not the Sun," it feels very 90s radio rock and is probably the one place where the influence of early Radiohead is most obvious, to the extent that it feels forced, like they really set out to make a Radiohead song.

    Speaking of the Radiohead comparison, other than that song and a few other places, I think the comparison makes sense primarily in the same way as my Modest Mouse comparison. Radiohead provided a kind of template for bands like this in the late 90s and early 2000s: a model for a band to up the ante, progress beyond straightforward guitar rock and really make a statement. You can see this big conceptual jump between Radiohead's (mostly lame) first album and their second, between their second and their third, between their third and their fourth, and it's that jump that bands like Brand New and Modest Mouse were trying to emulate in making these big, well-produced albums with big themes and more complex arrangements. I don't hear a whole lot of sonic similarity between Radiohead and Brand New on this disc, so the influence seems to be mainly on that conceptual level.

  13. Great comparison, Troy, with Sunny Day Real Estate/Jimmy Eat World. When you look at the roots of emo (in America, at least), you see intelligent bands like Texas is the Reason and Jets to Brazil. The genre expanded into hear-on-the-sleeve music which, for better or worse, popularized the genre and allowed musicians like Brand New to make some money...which then allowed them to experiment with their sound.

    "Limousine" is a song that I always skip unless I'm listening to the album all the way through. It's just too painful knowing the context.

    I'm glad you're giving it a spin, and I actually think you'll like the follow-up, Daisy, a lot. It's got a lot of that lo-fi, southern rock sound that bands like The Dead Weather are doing; only, Brand New is filtering it through their sound.

    I should add that I'm not surprised at all by the choices for favorite songs. I figured it would either be "Jesus Christ" or "Not the Sun." Along with "The Archers Bows...", I think those are the most accessible songs on the album.

    I hear what you're saying about the Radiohead sound. "Luca" does have that Bends-y, Radiohead guitar riff in it, but I definitely seem them being influenced -- and doing something interesting with those influences -- by Radiohead. I know that isn't some great insight, but I think where most bands (especially American bands) banally emulate Radiohead's sound, Brand New really creates something unique.

  14. Yup. Ed said it better than me. Conceptually, there's a connection.

    In regards to "Luca," it was one of the demos that leaked, and so they completely redid the song. If you can find the leaked demos out there (search Fight off Your Demons demos), give the original "Luca" a listen (for more info on the demos. It was called "Mamas" (or "Untitled 6"). It's kind of interesting to see where they were with certain songs prior to the leaks. (Here's a link:

    You're right, too, Ed, about the organic nature in which their songs build. Again, listen to the demo for "Luca"; it's interesting to see the direction they went (granted it was a work in progress, but I find the ending to the demo a lot like "Jesus Christ" but without's a nice, slow build) with that song. I do love "Luca" because it's so jarring and because it does remind me of my favorite style of Radiohead. And yes, I would agree, it does seem like the one instance on this record where they deliberately set out to make a Radiohead song.

  15. Sorry for the messed-up parenthetical on the previous comment. I forgot a link. It's not important, though, because the one to youtube is better.

    Also, I'll be on and off for a while now. Gotta go teach a class in about an hour.

  16. Marilyn -- re: 90's rock. Oops, didn't mean that to sound derogatory -- I more meant that it sounded completely out of place in the context of the rest of the album.

    I actually grew up on what I deemed "90's rock" (my high school days were the early 90's) and I it was all I listened to for many years: Guns and Roses, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica, etc. Then in the late 90's, mainstream music passed me by entirely and as I got back into it in the early 00's I kind of started not wanting to listen to the stuff of my teen years anymore and somewhat threw it all on the trash heap.

    Of course, then I realized how stupid this was and how much of the stuff I like from the last 10 years has its roots in the the music from that era in some way.

    Yikes, that comment rambled on. My points were: A) The songs not bad, just not what I expected to see on this album and B) music in the late 90's sure was awful :P

  17. Troy - No apology necessary; I understood what you were saying. I hate to tell you what I was listening to in high school and how many kinds of music passed me by (I graduated in 1973). I've only dipped a toe in later generations to find out what was going on, but as someone who was around when the original punk music came on the scene, I had a little more interest in grunge that most other forms of rock.

  18. Ed -- I like your Modest Mouse comparison because it also shows the extreme difficulty in doing what Radiohead has done. As Kevin mentions, Brand New decided to step things up for this album, but then on their next one they (according to him) go back to a more "radio-friendly" style (for lack of a better term). Modest Mouse did the same thing and have decided to go down the road of making nice music, but nothing remotely complex like The Moon and Antarctica.

    So it just goes to show how difficult it must be to creatively up the ante each and every release (and only part of this may be difficulty in the creative process as a lot of times it's that push to the mainstream that seems to be the determining factor). And though I've not be entirely enamored with all of Radiohead's output, I do see how impressive it is that they are always striving to make that conceptual jump with each album.

  19. Yeah, I mean even Radiohead hasn't been able to keep it up. To me, The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A/Amnesiac were each huge leaps and great albums that really pushed the band's sound forward from what they were doing previously. The stuff they've done since has been in more of a holding pattern, some of it good (I like In Rainbows a lot) and some of it fairly mediocre in my opinion, but none of it really pushing boundaries the way they did with those few earlier albums. That push to constantly reinvent one's sound with each new album can only go so far.

    I've made a few attempts to listen to later Modest Mouse out of respect for how much I loved the albums up to Moon and Antarctica, but it's all just so tame and polished now. They've had a few good pop songs but nothing that comes close to the gritty, hypnotic rock of their pre-Moon albums or the spacey brilliance of Moon itself. Very disappointing when a band scales back its ambitions like that. I'll admit I'm intrigued by the prospect of their new album with Big Boi (?!?) producing.

  20. I enjoyed your early, if only brief, overview of Emo as a genre. It's a genre I actually like a great deal, if we are talking about the originators of the movement. It's this sort of thing that I like a great deal, something like the two Drive Like Jehu records (they are just unreal Hardcore records), Rites of Spring, or Refused (though Refused are that emo, as they are more political, but their The Shape of Punk to Come is a landmark that all Hardcore acts after it have had to sort of deal with. I'd also say it's one of the greatest records made in the last 30 years or so). At some point 'emo' started getting really whiny and quite trite, to downright lame (there are many offshoots that try desperately to be funny or ironic). This is due to the 'Weezer effect' as I call it, mainly Pinkerton's influence (an album I once considered in my favorite dozen or so, and I still would rank it incredibly high), but none of those bands made records anywhere near as good as those first two Weezer records. But alas, for a few years Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional, et al was all you heard in suburban malls, and all of it sucked. Hard.

    Thankfully none of these negatives pertain to Kevin's pick today, an album by a band that has quite out grown these (now rigid) genre cliches. It's an album I had heard before and owned, though it was Kevin actually highlighting it years ago in one of those 'Best Music of the 00's' posts that happened at the end of 2009 (yep Kevin, and all other bloggers, there are people who take recommendations seriously and hunt the stuff down!). Initially I though as Marilyn did, on an overall similar stylistic trappings (the need for the soft to loud), though I wouldn't call it 'samesy' I did find it a bit redundant. But after more and more listens found that actually the overall depth of the compositions that there is much nuance here, and plenty of variation where I had initially (almost) thought it lacking. I think much of this was because how I initially approached the album (and I wonder if Marilyn has a similar approach) as a iPod/headphone experience, which due to mp3's and small air bud headphones greatly compresses the studio space rendering the 'soft' tones and 'loud' tones all more or less similar (this is true of most records of this sort). But, listening to it on a stereo, even of average to poor quality, greatly opens the music up to the point that two 'quiet' passages-- like 'Jesus' to 'Limousine''s opening moments one can hear quite a bit of difference. It's 'Limousine's slow build, with several sequences of 'middle' tenacity where I think the band is at it's best. Actually I think the albums first side (I know I know it's strange to talk in terms of cd's as lp's), roughly tracks 1-5 present the great stretch of the record. It's just a great mixture of what the band can do, and this isn't to say the second half is bad, as 'Luca' and 'Archer' are both huge impressive-- and highly accessible tracks. I actually think that 'Archer' is what we should hear on mainstream American rock radio, but alas we get Nickleback instead. Oh well.

  21. CONTINUED: (I loathe these word count limits)

    It's weird that Kevin mentioned a Radiohead connection about a month ago when the pick was made as shorthand, as I didn't find it apt. But he mentions a few riff/melody connections that are quite similar. So I've enjoyed thinking about that a little more this morning/afternoon. I had always considered Britain's Cooper Temple Clause to be the closest hardcore/rock Radiohead comparison these past few years. Their first two records are brilliant, and I think many here would like them (start with their song 'Promises Promises' which I'm sure will provide quite a headlong push). I generally find them a good comparison for a hardcore band because most (including Brand New) are reluctant to really explore electronic flourishes (something CTC do a great deal), something that greatly defines Radiohead's music. Either way Brand New, and/or this record don't need to be compared to Radiohead as it's good enough on its own.

    _ _ _

    I want to again give a slow building clap for this pick, essay (the appreciation for the album comes through in each sentence), and group idea at large. To jump from a great rasta record to a post-hardcore work is quite fun. Anything is open in the future and while I do have varied musical tastes it's great to be prodded to listen to something more that I don't on a weekly or even monthly basis. I'm quite excited by (relative) strangers handing out musical homework. I eagerly await the next pick!

  22. I'm with Ed on the glory years of Radiohead. Even though I don't really like Amnesiac all that much, that trifecta of albums (I consider Kid A and Amnesiac one album) is just an amazing fete for any band in any genre.

    Now, I should say something about Brand New's follow-up album and its radio "friendliness": It's not that it's more radio friendly as in that I mean it's a digression, but it just isn't as dark or complex. And that's a good thing because it still feels personal; it still feels like an album they made for them, not for others. It actually pissed a lot of Brand New's fans off. I see it as a definite progression for the band, though.

  23. Oh, and Modest Mouse is making an album with Big Boi?!? That's awesome. You're right about their recent albums...although "Float On" is a great song.

  24. Jamie:

    First off, wow, thank you for those kind words.

    Second, I see Refused more in the post-hardcore subgenre. Along with At the Drive-In and Thursday, these bands kind of set the example for what is basically known as "screamo" -- a mix between emo and hardcore -- and the post-hardcore movement.

    I'm glad you mentioned Pinkerton in regards to emo. Weezer did make emo mainstream. Also, I used to be a Dashboard Confessional fan. To me, that first album seemed to be what emo was supposed to be about, genuine and raw emotional music. But then it became something where a formula could be applied, and, well, after that it was mostly downhill. It also is a subgenre that really only makes sense when you're a teenager or 20, 21. I think once I started getting older I just had no use for the genre. Kind of like how Troy explains his absence from the music scene (although I do my best to keep him up to date on what the kids are listening to).

    I love what you say about "Limousine's" 'middle tenacity.' That's a great way to put it. I'm glad you and Ed feel the same way about that song that I do.

    "Archers..." is a song I thought would get Brand New on the radio, but it never happened (although "Jesus Christ" was a hit for them on alternative radio stations). You're right, too, about the first "side" being the best side. I love that string of songs that begins with "Jesus" and ends with "Degausser."

    True, the second "side" isn't as good, but it's precisely what I'm talking about when I mention how wonderfully messy the album can be. Interestingly enough, Daisy has the opposite effect: a first "side" (five tracks) that is uneven followed by a second side that is one of the best string of songs I've heard on any album the last five years.

    Anyway, Jamie, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and contribution here. I purposefully chose something that was the opposite of what Ed chose because I was hoping it would open things up for others when it comes time for them to choose something. I too look forward to what others pick. I'm really pleased with how people have received this album. I look forward to others' thoughts.

  25. Keep the comments comin', everyone. I have a few more questions that might prompt further discussion, but I'll hold off until everyone contributes (if there's still some out there that have yet to comment, that is).

  26. Glad you chimed in, Jamie, and glad you mentioned some of the roots of that most disgraced of genres, emo. Rites of Spring were an amazing band, one of the predecessors (along with hardcore legends Minor Threat) of Fugazi, but today they're often forgotten in comparison to their more famous contemporaries and successors. But they were an important reference point in marrying hardcore intensity to heart-on-your-sleeve emotionality, and a lot of subsequent emo and hardcore bands owe a great deal to them. I just put on their album a few weeks ago for the first time in a while and it holds up really well, it's just blistering from start to finish.

    Always loved Pinkerton, too. The point is, "emo" is great as long as the emotions in question are genuine and powerfully expressed rather than seeming like immature teenage diary scribbles. The genre's only gotten such a bad rap because so much of that music in recent years has been the latter more than the former.

  27. Wow. Rites of Spring. That takes me back. I obviously don't remember when they were initially around, but when I started to get into emo my senior year in high school, I made sure my cred was legitimized by finding all of the "original" bands. Which, actually, was a lot harder pre-Google days. I basically just had to go by music magazines and the bands that influenced the bands I liked. Anyway, they were one of the bands that I always spun in my discman as a walked down the halls (Fugazi, too).

    Also, there was always this great anticipation when going to a show in Portland at that time that you were going to see some great new band as the opening act. I remember seeing Cursive in the early 2000s when Domestica was released...and man...THAT was emo.

    Add me to the list of people who think Pinkerton still holds up. It holds value still, even if it primarily nostalgic value for me. But still, a great, intense album.

    Back to Rites of Spring: I don't think "real" emo died after the formation of Fugazi as record labels like Jade Tree were still trying to keep it alive with legitimate, intelligent emo bands.

    After the disbandment of bands like Fugazi and Jets to Brazil, the genre really deteriorated because a lot of the bands just simply grew up and evolved their sound.

    Like any subgenre, a lot of the bands get false praise because of the cult-like following that comes with these kind of offshoots. Fans of subgenres are usually quite fanatical, and it's really the zines of the 90s that pumped a lot of these bands up to be more than what they were, and there was a certain aura about these heart-on-the-sleeve troubadours.

    Jawbreaker (later Jets to Brazil) was another big one I remember, along with Fugazi, that was ALWAYS being featured in those zines.

    It wasn't just the sound, though, that defined emo, it was the earnest, raw, personal lyrics which has its roots more in folk/indie music. The songs were not topical, though, they were personal, and I think this is why so many bands like Braid, Mineral, Texas is the Reason, and The Get Up Kids gained such a passionate following. Hell, every show I went to from 1999-2002 was essentially a post-hardcore/emo show. I don't think it was a coincidence that bands from both subgenres were being booked on the same tour. The problem was that what Jade Tree Records (and to some extent, on the folksier side of things, Saddle Creek Records) made cool, Vagrant Records went and signed EVERY band that sounded emo, over-saturating the market so that it was frustrating wading through all of the crap to find the genuinely good emo bands. After that (around 2001 when Vagrant had corporate-sponsored emo tours...seriously, they did...I remember going to one) it just became too damn hard to differentiate.

    The reason I bring all of this up is because Brand New is obviously influenced by these bands (especially the band Lifetime), and like those bands took different genres and made them their own and evolved the sound to create something, I think Brand New does the same thing with emo with this album. They're taking the basics of the subgenre, and tweaking it just a bit so that it's, like Marilyn said, something that stands out amongst its peers. Brand New's first coupe of albums, warts and all, contained enough elements that stood out that you knew you weren't just listening to your run-of-the-mill emo band (especially since they were offering alternatives to shit like Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle" which was ALL OVER the radio at the time). All of those hints at something special in their previous albums really come together with this album to create something on a par with At the Drive-In's Relationship of Command or Thursday's Full Collapse.

  28. Sorry, that comment seems a bit unorganized. I blame Terrence Malick.

  29. Oh god, thanks for reminding me of The freakin' Middle. I had blissfully forgotten that one!

  30. jeez, great post Kevin I'll have to return when I have a moment tomorrow.

    I'm curious as to why you or Ed haven't mention my reference to Drive Like Jehu. Are you not fans? To me, they are as great as anyone in this (sub)genre.


  31. I haven't actually heard any Drive Like Jehu, I'm gonna download some now though.

    Any of you listen to Knapsack at all? My enduring appreciation for them is probably half nostalgia because I listened to them so much in high school, but man do I still like their album This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now. It's super emo, and more in the Jimmy Eat World melodic sense than the hardcore sense, but they've got the right amount of passion and the songs are great.

  32. I didn't re-listen to this album for the sake of participating in your Record Club post (not because of lack of interest, but because I honestly kept forgetting to give it a spin), but I've had your banner on my blog for a little over a month now to promote it and hopefully do my part to turn someone out there on to this band and/or album. I haven't listened to this album in years, probably since the month it came out. The progression they made as a band with this album didn't appeal to me, because at the time I was really attached to Deja Entendu and had grown used to that version of Brand New. Anyway, great post, great pick, and I'm enjoying the conversation here in the comments section!

  33. Ed, did you pick that album because it was produced by DLJ's drummer? If not that's a crazy coincidence.

    Never heard it though, will seek it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

  34. Hahah no just a crazy coincidence, I picked it because I was way into it in high school, and I still think it's a solid emo disc from before emo really became this big mainstream radio thing.

    No idea how it will hold up to anyone who wasn't constantly playing it at their most emo age, though. Heheh.

  35. I'm going to go give a listen to Drive Like Jehu as well. I swear I heard them at one point (when I was "testing" out a ton of hardcore/emo type bands to see what I enjoyed) but can't really remember anything about them.

    Add me to the people who loved (and still love) Pinkerton. Weezer was probably my favorite band circa 95/96 and their progression to where they currently stand still saddens me. I was one of THOSE people who thought that whatever their next album would be the one to again capture the magic of Pinkerton, but I'm at the point now where I won't even bother listening to their new albums.

    Oh, and yes, The Middle has become such a ubiquitous song that it's a bit annoying now, and the album it's from isn't any great shakes, but I'm not ashamed to say I still like Jimmy Eat World's Clarity album quite a bit. As Ed mentions with his Knapsack* reference, this may be some nostalgia mixed in.

    * I've listened to and enjoyed the Knapsack album Ed speaks of -- I've pared a lot of the emo stuff I don't listen to out of my mp3 collection in recent years as I've grown out of it, but the album is still there.

  36. Hey Kevin and everyone else,
    I'm sorry to jump into this thing so late; I'm out of town for a while and therefore don't have much access to a computer. I'm slowly making my way through all the wonderful comments regardless, and I'll certainly have a more cogent response in the near future.

    This is the second time in a row that I have had a somewhat negative knee-jerk response to a pick, only because I'm not particularly fond of the genre. Although I once loved the early albums of Bright Eyes, I've grown to be particularly irritated by self-loathing and depressive lyrical tendencies, especially if they seem to express nothing more than the pains of one individual. A first listen through this Brand New album yielded similar results for me: it was a singer whining about all his personal troubles and existential anguish in a not-so-subtle manner.

    Unfortunately, I haven't gotten through the album as many times as I'd like to this month, but I'm hoping this conversation continues long enough for me to do so. I still haven't warmed to the aesthetic either, which is relatively banal guitar rock of the sort I haven't connected with in years. Your comparisons to The Bends seem apt; trouble for me is that that's probably my least favorite Radiohead album.

    That being said, I did get into "Jesus Christ", even as the lyrics are tremendously leaden. I appreciate the simplicity of the arrangement aside some of the band's more caustic tendencies. And the sing-along at the end is emotionally intense. I hope to discover more of this as I listen to the album more. This is all I can offer for now, but a magnificent and dense write-up for sure!

  37. I wasn't able to listen to this album, but I skimmed through the post and comments anyway, and I just want to note the following ...

    When "The Middle" came out, I was living in the Tempe area of Arizona. Jimmy Eat World? They're from the Tempe area of Arizona. Which means that no one heard "The Middle" more than I did.

  38. Jamie:

    I like Drive Like Jehu...I need to listen to them again...been a long time.


    Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully you'll be back at others' sites for their Record Club choices.


    Thanks for stopping by. If The Bends is your least favorite Radiohead album, I understand why you might not like this "banal guitar rock" as much. That Radiohead album is my second favorite of theirs behind Ok Computer, and this style of guitar rock is something I really like, and I think Brand New kind of stands out from those that do sound banal. I hope you give it another shot based on your admiration for "Jesus Christ." All it takes is one song to (maybe) get you hooked. I think there's something more here than typical whining. I look forward to further thoughts if you have any.

    Jason: I'm really sorry to hear that! Hehe.

  39. After another listen, let me elaborate on what I find off-putting about this album's aesthetic.

    -Every chorus is basically a guitar riffing a couple of chords with heavy distortion, which after a while becomes very uninteresting to me. Yes, there are several guitar counter-melodies (like the most successful one that keeps weaving in and out of "Jesus Christ"), but they too start to sound alike. It's not that I feel to see the nuances, because this genre is not something that's completely new to me; it's that I don't think there are many nuances.

    -The dual vocal technique (one singing, one screaming) is curiously messy in emo music, to the point that it's often as if the two singers aren't even singing harmonies but just sort of ignoring what the other singer is doing. It starts to sound sloppy and amateur to me, and it seems as if no backup vocalist in the history of emo has had a remotely nice voice.

    -When listening to the album all the way through, I am struck both by how Lacey seems to be grasping for significance beyond himself and also how, despite those efforts, emotionally immature he remains. To sample a few lyrics:

    "I can't shake this feeling/I'll never say anything right."
    "I let the bad parts in."
    "The storm is coming."

    These snippets sound like something written on a junior high school girl's locker, the sad, self-loathing ramblings of a mind that has yet to grapple with the fact that his or her concerns of self are not as significant as they might seem. The analogy to the storm and the idea of "letting the bad parts in" are lyrical maneuvers that have been beaten to death in this genre, and they come across cliched and insincere to me.

    Having said all this, I enjoy some of the ideas this album works with, particularly the soft/loud dynamic. So many albums these days are so heavily compressed that there's no earth-shattering difference between the quieter moments and the epic explosions. Brand New understands that there should be that difference, and as a result the choruses always manage to explode with power in comparison to the verses, especially in songs like "Limousine" or "Degausser".

    That's all I have for now. I don't foresee growing to like this album myself, but I respect those who do. I can definitely agree it's a few steps above the average emo fare, but the problem for me is that I find the modern iteration of emo to be emotionally immature and unimaginative. Thanks for the great conversation!

  40. Carson:

    Your reaction is actually what I anticipated from a lot of people. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people embrace the album. One of the first things I copped to when I selected this album was the fact that I had doubts that a lot of people might find the lyrical subject matter a bit trite and sophomoric. I agree; it can be. However, I like that Lacey is willing to at least attempt to go big here, and the messiness of the album is part of its charm to me. Also, I admit that I am not that affected by the lyrics on this album save for some of the middle tracks (3-5, specifically). As I stated with Ed's choice, I'm much more moved by music than lyrics when it comes to music, and I think that I've always been willing to give Brand New a pass because they're always trying to push themselves as musicians.

    I think the lyrics are better than your run-of-the-mill emo band (which is what I always associate with sad-sack, junior high, heart-on-sleeve lyrics) because, as you state, Lacey is trying to reach for something beyond him. It doesn't sound glib to me; it sounds genuine and earnest (words being thrown a lot here, but they work, I think). Sure he doesn't succeed in all of his attempts at existentialism, but I appreciate the effort to try something new and big and put it all out there for people to listen to. I know that detractors will say that they just sound like a band TRYING to sound big and epic and existential, but I think it's more personal for them rather than them just trying it out because it's the cool thing to do.

    Now, I also understand that this brand of music doesn't do much for people (I figured my brother wouldn't like this one all that much), so I can't really argue with your reasons for disliking the overall sound of the album. You bring a well-reasoned, well-articulated defense of your dislike for this album and its genre, and one of the things I was hoping for was that there would be more disagreement on this choice, I was really interested in not trying to pick something I knew people would have a hard time liking, but I wanted to pick something that pushed people out of their comfort zone -- for better or worse -- and see how there is some good music being created in even the most maligned of subgenres.

    Thanks for coming back and elaborating on your points, Carson. Great stuff.

  41. Now, I also understand that this brand of music doesn't do much for people (I figured my brother wouldn't like this one all that much)

    I'm always full of surprises, aren't I.

    Carson's point about the lyrics is well thought out -- I know you are a band member yourself Carson. Have you had a hand in writing lyrics yourself? Just curious.

    I'm also curious -- is it simply that the lyrics are trite or is it that you don't buy that Lacey has the ability to provide any depth. Or both :) I wonder if similar lyrics written by someone else would have brought about a different reaction?

  42. Thanks for the responses, Kevin and Troy. I do happen to write lyrics myself, and I can't say I'm a natural at it (I much prefer essay-writing) but one thing I consciously try to do is steer clear of overwrought metaphors and solipsistic rambling. That's what I feel Lacey too often devolves into here. To answer your question Troy, I find them both trite and shallow, for the most part. Other times (and I'll keep coming back to this song), like in "Jesus Christ", there's a few lines that are more subtle, with implications that are less on-the-nose, like the one Ed picked out about "wood and nails". Like most of the commenters here, I'm not particularly reliant upon lyrics (or else I wouldn't listen to so much ambient music), but when a band seems to set themselves up around a central personality so overtly (as Brand New does), I can't help but evaluate the lyrics more closely. And I don't think this is simply a Lacey issue; I would find lyrics like these hackneyed coming from any voice.

  43. Late to the party. Was really looking fwd to this discussion, but then of course I forgot all about it! Reading thru and listening again, the following thoughts occurred:

    I hear a lot of Mogwai-type post-rock on this album... which I think is great. The biggest problem I have with the genre is its grandiose portent and its lack of personality. Lacey's whispered confessionals and strained screaming solve those problems -- there's a confused guy at the centre of all the winding / crashing guitars. Brand New can hypnotize and pulverize just like Explosions In The Sky, but they've got heart as well. This might be why I'm not such a huge fan of 'Welcome To Bangkok' or 'Untitled'... they skip what's so engaging about the band. They aren't particularly interesting post-rock pieces, either. Quite simple arrangements...

    I initially hated the soft crooning switch to shouting, because it sounded really wrong -- how would you produce such extreme dynamics live? But then I realized that it's actually a really cool effect. It internalizes the songs, makes them about the sounds in your skull rather than the sounds at a show.

    As for the lyrics... some of the clunky lines grated at first. But I got over that. I think too many people are scared of being earnest, and I admire the way Lacey has the guts to put himself out there (as has been pointed out above, his ambivalence about this is a key part of what makes Deja Entendu so interesting). Actually, I think his conviction and his voice can redeem a bad line quite well! Plus, there are enough gems on the album to make the work of unravelling meaning rewarding.

    The obscured lyrics are a boon in this task. The effect is a bit like what Grouper gets up to. Suggestions of words shrouded by the music -- songs that become more about mood than message. Also, it might be a way to avoid the teenage spokesman role Lacey's so uncomfortable with.

    'Handcuffs' is a bit too arch for me. The darkness becomes comical. Also dislike 'Limousine', which is too stretched out, the repeating line at the end just becomes annoying (didn't know about the story behind the song, but it doesn't really make it more interesting for me). 'Millstone', 'Jesus', 'Know' and 'Archers' are all amazing tho. I think Deja Entendu is superior, but Devil and God is a great step forward. Daisy was awful, tho...