“Was loosing all my friends… but I got them back” – so begins the third record from emo masters Brand New, a fifty-five minute journey of relentless self-evaluation and doubt, every bit as instantly classic as it’s enigmatic cover.
Emo may have a reputation for over-stated teenage melodrama, and Brand New rarely stray far from strictly Tumblr-worthy themes, but the lyrics on this release are so well-written and so intensely delivered that it’s nearly impossible to doubt the genuineness of a single word. From the resigned yet climactic refrain of “take me, take me back to your bed / I love you so much that it hurts my head” of ‘Degausser’ to the pure desperation of “say you’re my friend / but why won’t you be my family?” of ‘Not The Sun’, every track brims with lines that seem to jump out the record player and punch you in the face. Would it be pretentious to call them poetic? Possibly, but fuck it – lyrics this visceral are something that few rock ‘n roll bands can spit out in such volume. What emo always needs to elevate it beyond the painfully vapid whininess of My Chemical Romance et al. is some grit under it’s fingernails, something Brand New have enough of to make an album like this work (and something MCR never had enough of to salvage so much of a chorus from their trainwreck of mediocrity).
Raging lyrical brilliance often amounts to precious little if the tunes behind it lack the same vigour, but rest assured that every second is infectiously catchy yet still unpredictable enough to escape feeling sterile. Thankfully, by this point in their career Brand New had shed just about every trace of their pop-punk roots and moved into the darker, more alternative territory that they began with Deja Entendu, with ranging dynamic shifts throughout, noise rock interludes and the almost post-rock atmospheric crescendo of ‘Limousine (MS Rebridge)’ which creates a truly dramatic centrepiece for the album. For any other band a chorus like that of ‘The Archer’s Bows Have Broken’ would be lead-single material, but here it is a fairly modest penultimate track, preceding a closing ballad of truly honest and ethereal beauty. ‘Jesus’, armed with two simple guitar parts and an ear-worm melody manages to grab you by the balls and hold you for it’s five plus minutes without holding up for a second – the five second pause included.
If Jesse Lacey had released this ten years prior and then I don’t know, for example, shot himself in the head then The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me could easily have been the rock album that defined it’s generation, and that succeeding generations would loudly declare a masterpiece to try and seem cooler and more alternative than they really are. It’s a work of incredible honesty and power that fuses brilliant songwriting and biting lyrical substance into one stunning whole. If you’re going to listen to any emo record from 2006, make it this one.
Words by Joe Gilbertson