Unconventional band shows true side

Erik Ebsen

Erik Ebsen

If Brand New’s previous album, “Deja Entendu,” “is the sound of Brand New painting itself out of a corner,” (from letssingit.com, but I believe the band’s website originally) then their latest effort, “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”, is the sound of the band existing comfortably outside it, no longer trying to prove anything.

“The Devil and God” retains all the passion and guts of “Deja” without its slightly immature desperation. Here I’m referring to what drove the album, not its sound. Brand New have grown up and grown out.

“The Devil and God” reveals a shifty, complex sound that wasn’t on previous albums. It also sounds less “punk,” which makes it, philosophically speaking, much more so. In fact, this album really defies classification. It escapes formulas, guidelines, and especially genre. The songs feel more natural-like the band is playing just what they want to, regardless of fan-base or marketing.

If anything, “The Devil and God” is less “punk” sounding and more “hardcore.” Couple that with a more pronounced degree of intimacy musically and lyrically, and I’ve just confused the hell out of you. Good. Now you get how I feel about the album.

What sold me about “Deja” was that I’d never heard anything quite like it. I didn’t get it right away; it was something else. “The Devil and God” is something else all over again. That doesn’t necessarily make it good.

I’m not going to go through analyzing “The Devil and God” track by track. Its a tired method anyway.

The album’s packaging doesn’t give any full song names or lyrics anywhere, which retains some mystery in the listening. I’m not spoiling that. It’s a bold (and hopeless?) move in an industry where all the songs, all their words, and even the guitar tabs to play them will get plastered all over the Internet in minutes anyway.

It shows gall, though. Brand New appears more comfortable and confident this time; it seems they’re enjoying the freedom their last album earned them.

So they experimented. Vocals are softer in places, and the album definitely feels more intimate at times. It contains some excellent transitions as well as some really great heavy spots. Some you hear coming, some you don’t, but one gets the impression that’s how Brand New wanted them. They threw some string in the background occasionally, too. It adds some nice depth.

No one can blame Brand New for not having earnest lyrics either. Jesse Lacey still manages to sing touchingly and arrogantly-together.

The experimentation and lack of genre sort of alienates the album. Even excellent songs can sound cheesy if they’ve been over-produced. I can’t tell yet whether the professionalism of “The Devil and God” comes from mixing production or the artists’ talent. I hope it’s the second.

I suppose that would make them progressive. Brand New–a prog-rock band? I dunno. Evidence from “The Devil and God” almost links Brand New closer to Pink Floyd or Tool than anything on the Warped Tour. Listen to something off their first album “Failure by Design”; then, play the new song “Luca.” What an evolution.

In the end, you don’t have to understand music to like it. For a band that started out with such a “punk” sound, “The Devil and God” show Brand New becoming so much more. Wherever this band’s going, they’re doing a good job getting there.