The Devil and God

_It might not be apparent from the contents of all of my previous posts on this blog, but I love music. When I was in middle school, I saved up my weekly allowance for a 3 disc stereo system for my room. While we got allowances, we didn’t get lunch money. Our allowance basically had to go towards lunch at school or things we wanted. So…I basically sat around at lunch for a couple months not eating, being teased by kids for not having any food and having other kids at the table gleefully calling out to me to make sure they had my attention when theythrew away their unfinished meals. The moral of this story is that kids are assholes. fin. Not really, though they are. This is just to emphasize that music is important enough to me that I valued it above eating.

_So the question then presents itself…if music is that important to me, why have I not really bothered to write anything about it on this blog? Well…simply put, it’s because I couldn’t live up to my own expectations. I knew that if I was going to write about any band or any album, the band would be Brand New and the album would be The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. The thing that stopped me was that I never thought I could properly articulate what this album means to me, or the brilliance found within those 55 minutes [or at least what I perceive to be brilliance]. So…do I now think I’m up to my own challenge? No. No, I do not. But I’m going to try, because I have to if I ever want to pop my own music-writing cherry on this blog.

_The first time I heard Brand New was in 2003. MTV2 was going to change into its modern format within a year, but was still a 24 hour music video channel at the time. Even though the only music videos MTV ever played were fragments within the span of 1 hour on TRL once a day, MTV2 still relegated itself to less mainstream bands [at the time]. It was pretty awesome, really. MTV2 exposed me to Brand New, the Distillers [holy crap, that ass was in my dreams when I was younger], Mudvayne [first time I’d ever put an image to what double bass pedals actually were lol], the Darkness, the Chemical Brothers, Blur songs that weren’t Song 2…it was a magical time. But that was the first time I heard Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades.

_The first time I saw it, the visuals struck me. I was still young at the time [19] and was transitioning out of my adolescent music phase of “Judging a song based off of the opening notes/first 5 seconds of a music video,” but there will still traces of that in me. Luckily, the first images of Jesse Lacey hurriedly running down an alley into the bar caught my attention. The music itself also managed to catch me. Growing up during the 90’s alt rock boom, I seem to have been ingrained with a love for discernible bass lines in my rock music. I hadn’t really started paying attention to lyrics at that age, though. I listened to lyrics, but never really tried to put them together to hear a coherent story. But I liked what I heard. So like any self respecting teen in 2003…I downloaded every track from their Deja Entendu album in a trial version…yes, we’ll go with that.

_I was stunned, to say the least. I generally didn’t care for the current emo/pop-punk thing going on, and Deja Entendu very much was that…but the talent shone through. Deja seemed like the place every other “emo” band was trying to get to, but didn’t know that it was the destination. It was like Brand New set the bar for the genre in a hidden room behind a bookshelf in the emo castle.

_3 years later, Brand New released their third album The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. By then, I’d legit purchased Deja and absorbed the songs as much as I could at the time…but one album hardly a favorite band makes. I didn’t know about the new record until I literally saw it at the record store, but I went “Oh man!” and bought it immediately. Well…not exactly, because the front cover doesn’t even have the album title on it and it was before they put the sticker with the band and title on the cellophane, but you get the picture. I got home and popped that bad boy in…I wasn’t sure what to think. It was such a radical departure sonically from Deja. They didn’t sound like a totally different band…but more a band that thought they took their previous sound as far as they could go, and now had to move somewhere else to find what they wanted to do.

_The most striking aspect of Devil and God is the production. The entire album is made to sound incredibly raw. This was confirmed when I went to see them in concert a few months after the release of the album. Outside of the vocal overdubs, everything sounds exactly the same as it did on the album. And I don’t mean that in the traditional concert goer “They’re as good live as they are on their records!” I mean, yes, everything was great, but there was a difference in the sound of the the live versions of songs Deja and Your Favorite Weapon and the studio versions. If not for the vocal layering, you could convince me that Devil and God was recorded live after seeing that concert.

_It’s this energy that permeates the entire album. On a more crsip sounding album, the interlude tracks Welcome to Bangkok and (untitled) would be wastes of space. A mostly instrumental track with tons of guitar feedback and indistinguishable screaming? A guitar riff repeated over 2 minutes over the random sounds of someone moving a microphone and hums? On their own, they’re scraps, but in the grand scheme of the album, they’re enhanced by everything around them and they enhance everything around them as well.

_The entire album is a lyrical tour de force of loss, longing, doubt and self-loathing. Not the most uplifting description, I know. But allow me to sound cliched for a bit and say that as someone who has long suffered from all of those things, this album speaks to me. It’s not in a “OMG he understands meeeeeee!” way, but more in a “Knowing I’m not the only one feeling all of this is extremely comforting.”

_Limousine is one of the strongest displays of the album and could be used as the signature song. The long build at the intro, the crescendo of the final half of the song, the hauntingly powerful lyrics and story behind them, the chilling subtle backing lines at the end of the song [I’ll never have to buy adjacent plots of earth / Never have to rot together underneath dirt / I’ll never have to lose my baby in the crowd / I should be laughing right now] Everything works. The more I listen to it, the more I think about it, the better it gets.

_The last two sentences of that paragraph could describe this entire album for me. Every time I listen to it, even 6 years after its release, the lyrics get more powerful, their delivery seems more personal, I take note of another guitar part I didn’t before. It’s probably not a perfect album. If there was a way to scientifically quantify “Good,” there’s a high probability that it’s not the best thing ever made by man making rhythmic sounds. But I don’t care, because to me it’s both.


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