Emo rock veterans Dashboard Confessional are returning on February 9th with their seventh studio album, Crooked Shadows, marking their first LP in eight years. The Chris Carrabba-led group will support the release with an extensive North American tour that kicks off later this month. Ahead of the trek, the band stopped by Conan on Tuesday to perform their Crooked single, “We Fight”. Check out the replay up above.
Dashboard Confessional will be playing a few radio station concerts to close out January before officially heading out on the road. On February 21st, the band will kick off a Canadian leg that will last through mid-March with a show in Vancouver. They’ll commence playing US dates with Philly punk outfit Beach Slang on March 20th in Houston, hitting cities including Boston, Brooklyn, Detroit, San Francisco, and Los Angeles as they continue on through April. Consult the full schedule below, and grab tickets here.
Dashboard Confessional 2018 Tour Dates: 01/19 – Inglewood, CA @ iHeartRadio Alter Ego 01/26 – Rochester, NY @ Marina Jeep Arena 01/27 – Philadelphia, PA @ 104.5 Winter Jawn 01/28 – Wilkes-Barre, PA @ Alt 92.1 Snow Show 02/21 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom 02/23 – Victoria, BC @ Capital Ballroom 02/25 – Kelowna, BC @ Community Theatre 02/27 – Calgary, AB @ Macewan Hall 02/28 – Edmonton, AB @ Union Hall 03/02 – Saskatoon, SK @ O’Brian’s Event Centre 03/03 – Winnipeg, MB @ Burton Cummings Theatre 03/06 – London, ON @ London Music Hall 03/07 – Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Centre 03/08 – Quebec, QC @ Imperial 03/09 – Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre 03/10 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall 03/11 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall 03/13 – Oshawa, ON @ Oshawa Music Hall 03/20 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues # 03/21 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues # 03/23 – Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre # 03/24 – St. Petersburg, FL @ House of Blues # 03/25 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues # 03/26 – Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz # 03/27 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore Charlotte # 03/29 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel # 03/30 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues # 03/31 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore Silver Spring # 04/02 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony # 04/03 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues # 04/04 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s # 04/05 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrew’s Hall # 04/06 – Grand Rapids, MI @ 20 Monroe Live # 04/07 – Louisville, KY @ Mercury Ballroom # 04/08 – Lawrence, KS @ The Granada Theatre # 04/09 – Denver, CO @ The Summit Music Hall # 04/13 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre # 04/14 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox # 04/16 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades # 04/17 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore # 04/18 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues # 04/20 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues # 04/21 – Hollywood, CA @ Hollywood Palladium #
A mysterious band hailing from Tokyo, Japan, making an homage to Japanese filmmaker Shozin Fukui and the movie that shares the same name as the band as well as to noisy punk. What could hide beneath all these long names and fast beats? What are these people here to say? We already know the best way to find out… let’s check this new release!
Dissonance, breaks and sassy vocals hit us right in the face starting from the very first track, with it’s changing moods and spazztic sound enhanced by the raw production and swinging instrumentation. With titles like “I’m Not a Scab, I am a Strikebreaker!”, “To Whom Are You Gonna Convince Someone You Just Used?” and the last track, the one that gives the title to the EP, you just gotta know what you’re getting into. Maybe not the kind of party you would normally sign up for, but damn, it is a good one. Dance to the discord.
Even in the slower passages, there’s a vivid tension between all the instrumentation. The snare is constantly hitting or making rolls, giving the sense of constant movement and exploding energy. Inch by inch, like a knife hitting flesh deeper and deeper. There’s a freakish feel to these sounds. If you think you’re safe, it is just a scam. You’ve been deceived. There’s something waiting for you around the corner. But it is alright. Give yourself into it. Fade out. Goodbye.
We’re too smug to aisle, to pave among sentiments. Breed the silence, we may just stick along on what we’ve lost. I’ve gnawed (myself) to pieces, we distilled our taste and we might as well get all lost.
Beginning this weekend, Jawbreaker will be playing a series of shows in San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Los Angeles. The mini trek, which certainly seems like a prelude to much bigger news, will feature guest performances from the likes of Waxahatchee and Charly Bliss.
Check out the full itinerary below; all ticket information can be found here.
Jawbreaker’s last proper album was 1995’s classic Dear You.
Jawbreaker 2018 Tour Dates: 01/13 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill # 01/14 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall $ 02/26 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel & 02/27 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel ^ 02/28 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel % 03/08 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium ! 03/09 – Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium *
# = w/ Smokers $ = w/ Composite, Neutrals & = w/ Charly Bliss, Emily Flake ^ = w/ Clare O’Kane, special guests % = w/ Kate Willett, special guests ! = w/ Waxahatchee, Upset * = w/ Waxahatchee, Post Life
There’s a very brief, fleeting moment that takes place between celebrating and reflecting upon the music of a fading year and anticipating the sounds and possibilities of the calendar flip to come. If you blink, you could miss it. So, if you’re scratching your head right about now, odds are you blinked. That’s right. Last year’s best album was … hold on, we’ll think of it. And that song we couldn’t get out of our heads for months … wait, it’ll come to us. That’s a bit hyperbolic, we know, but it’s not entirely untrue either. It’s remarkable how we are able to arbitrarily rope off huge masses of half-processed pop culture in our heads and make way for more to come marching through. Is it fair? Maybe not. Ideally, we’d have a couple months to finish digesting 2017 before we’d have to start consuming all over again. But that’s life, and ready or not, there are dozens more remarkable records on their way. These are the ones we’re most excited to make some room on our plates for.
Why We’re Excited: After an exhaustive tour behind their last album, 2014’s acclaimed Stay Gold, the sisters of First Aid Kit took some much needed time apart to decompress. When Klara and Johanna Söderberg regrouped, they felt stronger as both sisters and a musical duo and then applied this sense of renewal to their fourth full-length, Ruins. The result is a rawer sound and a willingness to expose more of their inner selves than perhaps ever before. Here, the Swedish outfit focuses on a crushing heartbreak and the feeling of absolute purposelessness that follows, assisted by the likes of R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Wilco’s Glen Kotche, and elements of Americana and ‘50s-era Everly Brothers balladry. –Lake Schatz
tUnE-yArDs – I can feel you creep into my private life
Release Date: Jan. 19th
Why We’re Excited: Merrill Garbus has kept busy in the four years since 2014’s Nikki Nack: she contributed to albums from Cut Chemist and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, wrote a song for Mavis Staples, and kept on the road — and, as evidenced by early tracks from new album I can feel you creep into my private life, she might have gotten deeper into house music. The officially released tracks have been thrilling, but the live preview of ”Heart Attack” proves there’s far groovier Garbus to come in the near future. –Lior Phillips
Why We’re Excited: In preparation for his ninth (!) studio album, Nils Frahm created his ideal recording studio. Saal 3 is located within the historic Funkhaus building in Berlin and boasts bespoke cabling, a mixing desk, and a self-built pipe organ, among other unique features that have helped the German composer fully realize his vision and properly translate the arrangements inside his head onto record. While Frahm was already operating at a high level on his last few LPs, including 2015’s Solo, All Melody represents an accomplished musician elevated and empowered by a nurturing personal environment. –Lake Schatz
Why We’re Excited: It almost doesn’t make sense to eagerly anticipate a new Ty Segall record, given the maddeningly prolific clip that the seasoned garage guru records at. But his second self-titled effort, released in early 2017, showed Segall’s ability to branch beyond his savage musical instincts into subtler territory. To that end, it’ll be interesting to see if Freedom Goblin represents further growth or a retreat back to garage punk primitiveness. –Ryan Bray
Why We’re Excited: Rhye may have lost one of their two founding members since releasing the Polaris Prize-nominated Woman in 2013, but the R&B outfit have still managed to evolve and become the most complete version of themselves on BLOOD. Much of this growth stems from Rhye’s many, many months spent on the road: Their music now is more inspired than ever by the intimacy and humanity that goes into a live performance. There’s also a noticeable emphasis on the sounds of funk and soul, which goes hand in hand with the LA-based act’s desire for closeness and emotional intoxication. –Lake Schatz
Why We’re Excited: It’s been eight years since we’ve had the emo songwriting of Chris Carrabba to empathize with us while we wallow in our emotional depths, and there’s no better time for a return than 2018. Lead single “We Fight” was a reminder that those of us who feel like loners are still part of a community built on the acceptance of the outcast. Emo has had its ups and downs artistically as well as culturally over the years, but with the recent surge of talented young bands in the genre and a milieu more in need of rallying cries than ever, Dashboard Confessional is well set to return to the vanguard. –Ben Kaye
Why We’re Excited: Following the collaborative album FFS, released in conjunction with the band Sparks in 2013, the boys in Franz Ferdinand are getting back to business. Always Ascending marks the band’s first proper album since 2013 and features production from Philippe Zdar, who has previously worked with the likes of Phoenix and Beastie Boys. The self-titled lead single is heavy on synth and also gives fans their first look at new members Julian Corrie and Dino Bardot, who will help fill the gap left by founding member Nick McCarthy, who departed in 2016. Now 14 years removed from their smash hit “Take Me Out”, Always Ascending offers a chance for Franz Ferdinand to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. –Zack Ruskin
Why We’re Excited: Don’t take the title of Superchunk’s 11th studio album at face value. What a Time to Be Alive, from its moribund-looking cover art to its angry-as-all-fuck title track, appears poised to be the most pointed and overtly political outing of the iconic indie act’s career. In today’s turbulent times, we’ll take all the fiery sonic catharsis we can get. Fortunately for fans, Superchunk haven’t missed their mark yet. –Ryan Bray
Why We’re Excited: Wild Beasts announced their split in September, but the UK indie rockers’ many passionate fans will have one last album to cherish. The culmination of more than a decade and a half together, Last Night My Dreams Came True features 13 live studio recordings of tracks pulled from across the band’s five studio albums. It’s a bittersweet farewell, but a powerful one as evidenced by early sample “The Devil’s Palace”, which inventively combines Limbo, Panto highlight “The Devil’s Crayon” and “Palace” from 2014’s Present Tense. –Lior Phillips
Why We’re Excited: It’s common knowledge that Marissa Paternoster is one of our generation’s greatest guitarists. Through six albums with Screaming Females, she’s also proven to be one of punk’s sharpest voices, a bastion of clarity, and an undeniable force. The band’s seventh album, All at Once, is due out February 23rd on Don Giovanni Records and appears to be nothing less than a monster. Single “Glass House” builds momentum into a pummeling crescendo, claustrophobic and thrilling in the best ways, and if it’s representative of what’s to come, we may be in for the band’s heaviest record yet. –David Sackllah
Le Dictionnaire de l’emo is one of our favorite blogs where we find out about both obscure and incredible records, all the time, so it’s no surprise we asked them to share their top picks of the year. Find some great stuff on here…
I didn’t write that much this year on my blog because of personal issues and procrastination. But I was following with attention what was going on in the music world. I didn’t expect to have as many crushes as I had this year, a lot in screamo, some of them in shoegaze and metal. I’m also surprised to find some of my favorite records in French d-beat and Oï! Here’s some words about my very favourite records this year…
Øjne – Prima Che Tutto Bruci LP
I think that Øjne are some of the winners of screamo music this year, as their album we were all waiting for since 4 years, Prima Che Tutto Bruci, is just awesome, full of emotions, melodies, and of that specific Italian screamo skill. A grower: the more we listen to the LP, the more we have chills. AND THAT OPENING TRACK HOLY SHIT.
Trachimbrod – Leda LP
Others winner of the year are Trachimbrod with Leda, which is how can sound a “pop screamo” record I guess. This band still use a lot of their shoegaze influences to give to the sound of Trachimbrod a lot of warmth, to make us feel comfortable and safe when we listen to the record, while being super sad and cathartic at the same time. A perfect album to listen alone in our bedroom, and definitely a listening companion for a very long time… #swedishskramzmafia.
Lirr – God’s On Our Side; Welcome To The Jungle LP
Lirr. released a 100% surprising and incredible first LP called God’s On Our Side; Welcome To The Jungle, where they choose to almost completely let the Pianos Become The Teeth-influenced screamo behind them, to play a really unique blend of indie rock, screamo, math-rock… And R’n’B ! This record is a real journey, a very ambitious one. A great congrats to them, I hope this isn’t the only time we’ll heard about them.
Ostraca – Last LP
Ostraca floored me with Last, a record where they let their sufferings unleash into an ocean of heaviness, droning ambiant parts and epic screamo explosions. A very challenging listen, cathartic as fuck.
Massa Nera – Los Pensamientos De una Cara Palida LP
Massa Nera dropped a surprising first album, with unreal drums and a very City Of Caterpillar-esque sound, with lots of influence, a haunting atmosphere.
French screamo & punk galore…
Chaviré – Interstices LP
French screamo highlights from Chaviré brought with Interstices a perfect witness of the social/political situation in their hometown and their whole country, with lots of great melodies, but they always sound as angry and raw as they were since the very beginning.
Jeanne – I LP
I was also BLOWN AWAY by Jeanne, a super-underrated band from Strasbourg with a member of Paramnesia on guitars and vocals, which released in almost total secrecy a full-length, simply named I, which will never be released physically for equally secret reasons, and this is a compltete banger, full of good and dark riffs, with lots of half-clean/half-dstorted guitars. I think neocrust and Jungbluth influenced them a lot!
Potence – L’Amour Au Temps De La Peste LP
Potence, a band with an ex-Daïtro at vocals and members of Geraniüm and Black Code, also released an awesome emocrust record, L’Amour Au Temps De La Peste, which is a block of anger thrown straight against all the demons of our always more racist, capitalist and individualist societies. Also in France, this was really the demo year.
Dédale, Les Mauvais Jours, Marée Noire, Circles, Deletär, Années Zéro, Bleakness, Contractions… They all released a demo tape / 7‘’ this year, there’s a lot to say about all these bands and I don’t have enough time to explain why they all are so cool, argh. It’s going from garage punk to d-beat, from oï to Revolution Summer-influenced hardcore punk…
But hey, be sure to give them a listen, you’ll find members of great French screamo bands in almost all of them, and it’s always 100% catchiness and sing-along.
erai gave me chills with their S/T, a bit went out of nowhere, but wow, what a wonderful LP. It’s 90’s emo record with a LOT of post-rock influences, with some clean vocals that even reminded me of early Devil Sold His Soul. Absolutely great.
Also yeah, Short Days and Zone Infinie are the best French punk bands of 2017, their albums are incredible. First one sounds like a The Observers-worship with some Youth Avoiders vibes, when second one is a modern version of Camera Silens, with 2 songs that even have some emo similarities. Both about boredom, cops, depression.
Also, here’s some others bangers not to miss, to have a good resume of the year:
Dawn Ray’d – The Unlawful Assembly (black metal from the black bloc, ex-We Came Out Like Tigers)
The trek commences on March 20th in Houston and runs through the end of April. Other cities expected to host the recent Fueled By Ramen signees: Atlanta, Orlando, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle, and San Francisco. Philly punk outfit Beach Slang have been tapped to open.
Consult the full itinerary below.
Dashboard Confessional 2017-2018 Tour Dates: 12/04 – Salt Lake City, UT @ X96 Toyota Nightmare Before Xmas 12/06 – Tulsa, OK @ The Edge Christmas Concert 12/07 – St. Louis, MO @ 105.7 The Point HoHo Show 01/27 – Philadelphia, PA @ 104.5 Winter Jawn 01/28 – Wilkes-Barre, PA @ Alt 92.1 Snow Show 03/20 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues # 03/21 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues # 03/23 – Atlanta, GA @ Buckhead Theatre # 03/24 – St. Petersburg, FL @ House of Blues # 03/25 – Orlando, FL @ House of Blues # 03/26 – Raleigh, NC @ The Ritz # 03/27 – Charlotte, NC @ The Fillmore Charlotte # 03/29 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel # 03/30 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues # 03/31 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore Silver Spring # 04/02 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony # 04/03 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues # 04/04 – Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s # 04/05 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrew’s Hall # 04/06 – Grand Rapids, MI @ 20 Monroe Live # 04/07 – Louisville, KY @ Mercury Ballroom # 04/08 – Lawrence, KS @ The Granada Theatre # 04/09 – Denver, CO @ The Summit Music Hall # 04/13 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theatre # 04/14 – Seattle, WA @ The Showbox # 04/16 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades # 04/17 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore # 04/18 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues # 04/20 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues # 04/21 – Hollywood, CA @ Hollywood Palladium #
It’s strange to think that my first time at the gorgeous Brooklyn Kings Theatre could be my last time seeing the infallibly excellent Brand New. If that’s how it ends up being scrawled in the books, then it certainly won’t be reflected upon in disappointment. Still, after seeing that grand, majestic ceiling, I imagine I’ll be back to that venue someday soon. And after witnessing last night’s insane performance from one of the best-yet-still-niche bands out there, it’s hard to envision this being anywhere near their final show.
The last year has been wrought with half-confirmed, constantly hinted-at speculation that Brand New will split up in 2018. Jesse Lacey has said so himself in veiled terms, and it’s been printed all over their merch (which, it’s worth noting, is not available for sale on this tour leg). Then came Science Fiction, the Long Island group’s fifth full-length, almost out of nowhere, arriving to near universal acclaim even as the shadow of “final album” hung over all the discussion.
But this show didn’t feel anything like a finale — it felt exactly like a band touring on their most recent effort. The setlist hewed closely to the freshest material, opening with “Lit Me Up” and loading up on tracks like “137” and “Same Logic/Teeth”. While my eager-fan self wanted to experience more of that alt-country subtext that runs through much of Science Fiction’s latter half, “In the Water” and the fiery “451” provided a fair taste, and songs like “Out of Mana” and “Can’t Get It Out” proved the new connects with audiences just as well as the old.
It also demonstrated one of the band’s finest strengths: growth without loss. Through each record, they’ve managed to sound somewhat different without ever failing to sound like Brand New. “451” is perhaps the best example, with a dustier gallop than any other smash from Daisy to Deja Entendu that still slams into you as hard as anything that made The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Mesuch a masterpiece. It’s a greatness that’s often left under-appreciated outside what’s rankly described as “emo” circles, as if this sort of lyrical post-hardcore has a critical limit on its accessibility. (Just don’t tell that to the hundreds of people singing along to that acoustic “Soco Amaretto Lime” closer or the tour debut of “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t”.) Lacey actually credited openers Nada Surf with letting them know “you can just recreate yourself over and over again,” but Brand New have perfected and maintained it better than most.
More than just a chronicle of New York’s finest, the concert was in some ways the biggest Brand New has ever been. It’s not as if they’ve typically want for exciting stage lighting, but the screen rig that dropped in front of them for the first two and a half songs was a bit of a technological leap for the rockers. Plenty of bands use setups like this to various effects, but props due to whoever designed this one. Utilizing rows of LEDs to create gentle smoke effects or dissipating flames that synched with “Lit Me Up” excused the fact that you couldn’t actually see the band during the song. Even the background screens seemed more involved than past shows, like the found war footage during “137” or the cloud lightning during “In the Water”. It was far and away the most visual set I’ve ever seen from them, and that extended to the musicians themselves.
Usually a four-piece, the stage was filled by six people thanks to the addition of a second drummer and one Kevin Devine. From the get-go, it was clear Devine — a longtime friend of the band — was simultaneously honored and overjoyed to be part of the band. He leapt about like a kid going to his first Brand New show, jumping into the air and clearly right at home behind that flower-dressed mic stand. As he thrashed about with the ever-mobile Vinnie Accardi, wailed in front of Brain Lane’s drum kit, or swung his body in time to Garrett Tierney’s, it felt like he always belonged there and made the whole band seem larger because of his presence.
Not that they ever needed bolstering. These guys have been doing their thing — sometimes slowly, always deliberately — for 18 years. There seems to be the distinct possibility that they won’t make it to 20. Yet, every time you see them live, it becomes harder to envision a rock scene without them. Sure, that might just be the fan in me, and despite never being a chart-monster band, we all know how devoted Brand New fans can be. Still, from a strictly critical perspective, these guys are just too good at what they do to want them to stop. Of course, they don’t owe us anything, and if they feel it’s time to head off-stage and be with their families — as Lacey literally did last night, picking up his child as he exited post-encore — then thanks for the memories.
But surely they’ve still got a more formal farewell ahead of them. And if last night was just a short stop on that trajectory towards finality, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Setlist: Lit Me Up Gasoline Out of Mana You Won’t Know 137 Can’t Get It Out Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light You Stole At the Bottom In the Water Same Logic/Teeth 451 Degausser Jesus Sowing Season Encore Soco Amaretto Lime
Origins is a recurring new music feature in which an artist charts the influence of their latest hit single.
Having grown up deeply embedded in Chicago’s punk scene, it wasn’t long before Deanna Belos made her transition from diehard music fan and active community supporter to full-fledged musician. Inspired and encouraged by fellow fans and colleagues around her, Belos founded her own band in Sincere Engineer.
The group is now prepping to put out its debut album, Rhombithian, this week via Red Scare. Very much a product of Belos’ environment and experiences, the LP pools together elements of past and present Midwest-flavored punk and emo: It’s both literal and sentimental, reflective yet relatable. It’s also packaged neatly into two or three-minute bursts of driving guitars and yelp-worthy lyrics.
As a solid example of this, Sincere Engineer have shared the latest album track, “Shattering”. Here, Belos likens herself to “worn out bed sheets” and “an empty bottle shattering” at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Anthemic hooks, self-loathing lines, and Belos’ cathartic yell toward the song’s end make for a quick, hard-hitter you won’t soon forget.
Check it out below via its official video. Helmed with the help of Alex Zarek Art & Design, it sees Sincere Engineer rocking out inside a Chicago practice space.
Rhombithian, which features production from Matt Jordan (You Blew It!, Dowsing), officially arrives October 20th. Pre-order it here.
For this Origins installment, Belos takes Consequence of Sound through some of the songs that helped her write “Shattering”, including originals by The Hold Steady and Protomartyr.
The Hold Steady — “Stuck Between Stations”
I’ve always liked how The Hold Steady mentions the Mississippi River in some of their songs. It made me want to write a song that mentions Lake Michigan, because Chicago.
Protomartyr — “Clandestine Time”
The first lines in “Shattering” were inspired by a friend telling me a story about how he used to swim out to the middle of a lake when he was a kid. He’d swim out so far and get so tired that he’d scare himself. He got me into Protomartyr and this song reminds me of him. 🙂
Rapids — “Coroner Bar”
The idea for the end bit in “Shattering”, when I sing the word “shattering” a bunch, came to me when I was listening to one of my friend Mike’s solo records. I can’t remember which it was, so I’m picking my favorite song by my favorite project of his. This EP in its entirety was a staple during the year I started playing shows and writing more. Every once in a while I remind Mike that listening to it evokes every feeling (good and bad) I felt that entire year, and now it makes me nostalgic. This got a little weird. Sorry. Chicago Punk Legend Rob Kellenberger is also in this band. Rad!
Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds — “East St. Louis”
Had to pick something Brendan related on account that he’s my hero and all. One time I played a show at the L&L Tavern and he pulled me aside after my set and gave me some advice. There was a lot to it, and he was more eloquent than I’m making it seem, but it was something about using a lot of G and C chords. I drunkenly typed everything he said into a note in my phone. Not even sure if I got it all down correctly. Either way, this is one of several of my songs that resulted from that advice. Thanks, Bren. I chose this song because I like the harms at the end a lot.
Never the kind of band to do things by the book, Brand New’s career the last two decades has felt like a series of mazes. The Long Island-bred rockers, a product of the early aughts pop-punk/emo scene, became known for receding into the shadows and shying away from the public eye. They adopted a mysterious elusiveness, not unlike that of Tool, Radiohead, or Aphex Twin, and everything from one-dollar lyric booklets and leaked demos to surprise intimate concerts and collaborations with friends have since been overanalyzed into oblivion by die-hard listeners. Whether or not this has all been intentional, the fan base has only grown more rabid, each wait between albums more draining and torturous than the last. (I’m now 30 and have definitely lost a few years of my youth to the stress of refreshing Ducat King for Brand New pre-sale tickets.) So rich is the tapestry of mythology surrounding the group.
The latest, and quite possibly final, chapter of the Brand New saga was revealed late last week when the band, out of the blue, put up a pre-order page for their fifth album. Hours later, physical CDs of the album (formatted as one long 61-minute track) were mailed out to select fans, who then went on to diligently figure out the LP’s name and a few song titles, and of course, toss off countless theories about what it all meant. Again, mere hours after this, Science Fiction was formally announced and up for official purchase — then, available to stream on digital platforms. Their first full-length since 2009’s Daisy, dropped from the sky unexpectedly? In just a matter of days, Brand New had expanded their mythology almost tenfold. Assuming what frontman Jesse Lacey & co. have been suggesting comes to fruition, that they will in fact break up in 2018, Science Fiction is the perfect way to cap off their story, the ideal send-off in more ways than one. Here, Brand New manage to reinvent themselves while also recapturing the essence of what’s made them so special and enduring.
Over the course of their five albums, Brand New have dived headfirst into pop-punk (2001’s Your Favorite Weapon), indie/emo (2003’s Deja Entendu), alt-rock (2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me), and divisive noise rock (Daisy). Science Fiction gathers together elements of its predecessors like a scrapbook, but without ever sounding forced or regurgitated. Having religiously listened to them since the beginning, I appreciate the callbacks to past works, but feel as though they’ve been reshaped into something that, for lack of a better phrase, sounds like brand-new territory. “Can’t Get It Out”, likely the most single-friendly of the bunch, is part Weezer, part “Flying at Tree Level (Version 1.0)”, and a nice gem for those hankering for the YFW/Deja days. “Waste”, moments of “No Control”, as well as a handful of tracks, retains the bite and roar of Daisy, which in turn, nods to the likes of Nirvana and The Jesus Lizard. (There’s even a spoken word bit on “In the Water”, which also appeared on Daisy.) Taking a page from fellow tour mates and longtime influence Modest Mouse — I’ll never grow tired of Lacey’s “Trailer Trash” cover P.S. — Brand New go full Isaac Brock toward the end of “Same Logic/Teeth”; meanwhile, the raging drive of the second half of “451” could’ve easily found a place between Devil and God’s “Luca” and “Untitled”. Throughout, both Lacey and Vinnie Accardi do an incredible job showcasing their technical skill on electric guitar; Accardi, I’m assuming, handles the wicked solos on tracks like “137”, and if you’ve ever seen the group live, you’d know the beast that he is on stage.
What holds all these references together and gives them fresh context is Brand New’s heavy reliance on acoustic guitar. Most, if not all, tracks use it as their backbone but in a way not heard on previous records — this is no attempt at evoking “Soco Amaretto Lime” or “Play Crack the Sky”. The arrangements are bolder, spinier, and played with such an intensity that I can almost imagine the taut strings cutting into Lacey and Accardi’s fingers. Alongside the acoustic guitar, the group try its hand at more folky, country, and Southern rock styles, and for me, someone who hadn’t really anticipated this particular musical direction, I find it fits and works rather brilliantly. Brand New have always favored alternating between soft and piercing moments, and now their wah-wah pedals and fury-fueled rock have found their cool, earthier counterparts. (I read somewhere that Lacey, born and raised in New York, and his family may be Nashville-bound, so perhaps this isn’t all entirely random.) Science Fiction producer Mike Sapone, who’s worked on every single one of Brand New’s albums, in addition to those by Taking Back Sunday and Kevin Devine, is owed a great amount of credit here for striking a balance between the band of yesteryear and the future (?).
When putting pen to paper, Lacey leaves his fingerprints all over the new album, as he did on nearly all the band’s other albums (he shared a lot of the Daisy lyrical duties with Accardi). Brand New wrestle with themes of morality, truth, and authenticity, religion as an institution, and mental health issues as manifested by demons. On opener “Lit Me Up”, Lacey talks about growing up to become a heretic, burning “like a witch in a Puritan town” (Radioheadanyone?); later, he says he “wants to climb over the wall ’cause I’m not on the list,” the same list he found himself excluded from on Devil and God’s “Jesus”. Other tracks include lines that explicitly mention some kind of psychological damage, such as “I’m a psycho/ Can you know this?” from “Out of Mana” and what’s sure to be a fan favorite, “I’m just a manic depressive/ Toting around my own crown” from “Can’t Get It Out”. On “Desert”, which seems to be sung from the perspective of a man who is homophobic and xenophobic, Lacey critiques hypocritical ultra conservatives who practice hate while preaching that “God Is love”. And on the outro for “Could Never Be Heaven”, a spoken word piece says, “I don’t know how to break through this contradictory mess and really find your authentic individuality.”
Though these are recurring themes from throughout Brand New’s catalog, on Science Fiction Lacey sounds more resigned to his fate than ever before. Perhaps nothing confirms this better than the closing song. “Batter Up” may be expansive in length (a mighty eight-and-a-half minutes), but the feeling of emptiness is overwhelming — and not just for the fans. “It’s never going to stop, batter up,” Lacey sings rather tragically, before lamenting about how you “don’t get what you want.” As the instrumental outro begins to roll through, it’s impossible not to envision the band walking off the stage for the last time with this playing in the background, the curtains on the verge of closing, the venue nearing a blackout. It’s a bit sad to think of Lacey’s last Brand New words being those of resignation and that this album could very well be their goodbye (though, hey, isn’t that quite poetic?). But fans should take comfort in the fact that, despite often feeling out of control internally, Brand New were able to go out on their own terms and in such a way that proudly and effectively honors not only the humans and musicians they’ve become, but their career as a whole.
Essential Tracks: “Can’t Get It Out”, “Batter Up”, “Same Logic/Teeth”, and “Lit Me Up”
Dusting ‘Em Off is a rotating, free-form feature that revisits a classic album, film, or moment in pop-culture history. This week, Nina Corcoran tackles Brand New’s game-changing third studio album with the help of Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine, and mewithoutYou.
When Brand New released their third studio album, no one expected it to change as many things as it did. And, to be fair, it was hard to recognize its impact in real time. On November 21, 2006, the Long Island four-piece — singer and guitarist Jesse Lacey, lead guitarist Vincent Accardi, bassist Garrett Tierney, and drummer Brian Lane — released The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, an album so full of ferocity and life that every indication of what it offered — the melodramatic title, the unsettling artwork, the suggestive song names — barely scratched the surface of what laid within. It’s their longest album, clocking in just shy of an hour, and yet it feels like the fastest, the most complete, the most swift in moving the listener from one horrid place to another and back again. The album guts the band and the listener simultaneously, and in the process, Brand New trashed predispositions about what it meant to gut yourself in that fashion, to rip your heart off your sleeve, cut an incision down the middle, and encourage passersby to stare for as long as they pleased.
Looking back, Brand New ended the need to feel ashamed for connecting to emo. The early 2000s saw pop punk shift into a whinier era, but the band opted not to follow, marking a change in what it meant to support a genre that was so very easy to taunt. Blink-182 profited from juvenile humor. Fueled by Ramen idolized the rise of adolescent lyricism. My Chemical Romance found an audience for over-the-top theatrics. The first half of that decade became a place where emo music lost the edge of Sunny Day Real Estate and American Football’s ability to grapple with rectitude. It became a genre of revenge lyrics, of comically dramatic ultimatums, of predictable hooks worth replaying because of the comforts familiarity offers. Frankly, Brand New only fit into the definitions of pop punk and emo because of their debut LP, Your Favorite Weapon, and shortly after abandoned the genre’s usual definition. But they held tight to the emotional honesty of their lyrics come 2003’s Deja Entendu and brought an even sharper knife to their tongues when crafting the words for their third LP, carrying their fanbase on an evolution of sound that encouraged countless other bands to reach beyond their genres, too.
The album prioritizes hearing music first and words second (a comical choice given the number of people who ink its lyrics into their skin) to emphasize its larger themes. It’s not really tied to Satan (2013’s vinyl reissue with 666 copies in red excluded) or spiritual respite, but rather self-doubt, the grievances of loss, and how to reckon with personal struggles when they claw from within — things that must be felt before they can be described. Pop punk is built on being able to yell lyrics back in a band’s face. Emo is made for jotting lyrics down and sighing. With The Devil and God, Brand New surpassed these genres and, with that, the ways to listen to them by viciously cranking the volume and getting experimental, bringing theremin and strings into the mix. It raised the bar not just for listeners, but for the band themselves. “It is an important record and piece of work to us,” Lacey wrote on Facebook this summer, “and one that 10 years later we still use as a measuring post with which we compare the music we make now.”
Singer-songwriter Kevin Devine became close friends with Lacey in 2000. In the years between Deja Entendu and Devil and God, they traded stories, supporting one another during troubled times and listening through tricky career steps. “There was a time we went to Sapone’s house, and two of the Goddamn Band members — Mike Skinner who played keyboards that night and Margaret White who played violin — and I played bass and we tracked a super early sketch of ‘You Won’t Know’, which must be floating around on a hard drive,” Devine says over the phone. “For me, it wasn’t like, ‘Are they making Dark Side of the Moon but for emo?’ These were just my friends making cool songs, but it definitely felt like an awareness of a movement forward. The prior record wasn’t frivolous in any way, but these songs were more serious, more formidable, they demanded to be reckoned. Brand New advanced as arrangers.”
Whereas Deja Entendu took four months between the recording sessions and the release of the album, The Devil and God took over a year and a half from when they first entered the recording studios in March of 2005. Brand New took their time figuring out how to capture these communal feelings. It started in Oxford, Mississippi, where the four met up with Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Ben Folds), but they quickly backed out of recording with him because of prices and timing, despite Herring understanding what they wanted to capture on record. Instead, they turned to Mike Sapone, the producer behind Your Favorite Weapon, who brought them to a farm in Massachusetts; Cove City in Nassau County, New York; and his own home studio to record what would become the final version of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.
Sapone encouraged the four to push these feelings and, in turn, the instrumentation that feeds them. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me follows through on the sonic extremes it suggests. Desolate, dense guitars intro one song before flipping entirely, a type of musical bipolarness. It begins with “Sowing Season”, an accessible track with foreboding desperation about losing friends that smashes its quiet verses with blaring choruses. Brand New suddenly embrace dynamics at their zenith. A gorgeous drum fill will cut just in time for each instrument to come slamming down. What was forcibly quiescent has awoken, especially on “You Won’t Know”, a song that allows the band to unleash something too evil to sketch and calls for the listener’s own rage to take reign. Brand New is on a path of edification by ripping themselves to pieces, balancing soft and loud with impossible dramatics, foregoing summation entirely.
Photo by Heather Kaplan
Devine’s first experience with the album was during a drive from Phoenix to Austin, alone. “I bought the record on iTunes that morning and The Essential Leonard Cohen. That was all I listened to,” he laughs. “I had never heard ‘Jesus’ — I don’t know if that was on purpose, like Jesse being like, ‘Wait until he hears this one’ — and I listened to that song probably 14 times in a row. I remember that vividly, thinking that was the best song they had ever written. Songwriting-wise, it is slow, nuanced, the hook is great, there’s that faint nod to Modest Mouse with the harmonic bend in the chorus. I was really, really, really impressed. It’s a songwriting song — emotionally, educationally, intellectually, structurally, in every way. Then there was ‘You Won’t Know’, which was gnarly. But ‘Degausser’ was the one that was wild. I knew this guy well, we shared all the buttons in our lives, but I felt like I was eavesdropping on something when I listened to that song. I still do.”
For others, their first listen wasn’t an intimate moment, but one of shared overwhelmingness. “The first time I heard it, we were in Jesse’s rental car, driving to go buy a guitar,” Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull tells me over the phone. It was August of 2006. Manchester Orchestra and Brand New mastered their albums within two weeks of one another. The moment Lacey received Devil and God in the mail, he encouraged Hull to listen with him. “He listened to it with the volume completely turned up, it couldn’t go up any louder, and I just remember thinking, ‘This is super loud. I wish he would turn it down so I can figure out what was going on.’ But once I adjusted, and was like alright, this is how we’re going to listen to this record, I just remember going, ‘Man, what a step. What a huge step.’”
That shuddering volume wasn’t a trick of the studio. It’s man-made, and it’s still just as present in today’s live shows as it was back then. “I remember we came in when they were doing a soundcheck at a show in Berlin,” mewithoutYou guitarist Mike Weiss says over the phone. “It was a pretty small club, but you could just tell that this music was going to be way too huge to be contained. And lo and behold, that turned out to be quite true.”
That severity was in part the exasperation of numerous failed songwriting sessions. It began when Brand New wrote new songs in early 2004, but delayed recording them in order to return to daily life after years of touring. When they regrouped in late 2005, they found themselves distanced from the songs, many of which carried a different tone or structure than the material they hoped to now create. Brand New got to work on a new set of songs yet again, but come January of 2006, nine of those untitled demos leaked online. Upset at the thought of unfinished songs landing in the hands of fans, the band reworked four demos — two for the album proper (“Untitled 8” became “Sowing Season” and “Untitled 6” became “Luca”) and two for later B-sides (“Untitled 7” became “Fork and Knife” and “Untitled 3” became “Brothers”) — and scrapped the rest, writing a new set of material for the third time, this final set that would play out in Sapone’s studios.
That ferocity paid off. Devil and God wretches like it’s going to hurl, slushing a mix of unprecedented rage and self-disgust that is, unfortunately, relatable. During one of their 2007 tours, Brand New closed with instrumental track “Welcome to Bangkok” and asked the other bands to join them onstage to double its volume. It was a rally cry for the distraught, and Hull, specifically, was asked to kick off the song on acoustic guitar. “For a 19-year-old kid, to be starting the encore? It was trippy,” says Hull. “It was very idiot savant: soundcheck, day of, ‘Hey, can you learn this part?’ So all of a sudden I’m playing one song and then it was, ‘Oh, there’s actually this guitar part that we need somebody else, too.’ At that point, I realized these guys are aiming for something that’s really grand. And they’re achieving it; it’s inspiring.”
That’s when it became clear: This wasn’t a band whining about suburban woes. Their Deja Entendu days of youthful, emotional intellectualism had passed. This was the sound of emo taking on a new form while simultaneously shedding the genre altogether. It’s interpersonal bravery that comes with confronting oneself, the therapeutic confessionals of depression, and the quiet rage that accompanies fear, loss, and the unknown. The rhythm section alone howls with rigidity and recklessness. “He’ll come in on a song and, to this day, I still can’t pinpoint exactly when his part’s coming,” Weiss says of drummer Brian Lane. “Usually, as a musician, you can listen to music and get in touch with when parts will come in based on where you are in the song and what measure, but ultimately this guy is putting down parts that no other drummer I can think of would do.”
Photo by David Brendan Hall
“Degausser” and “Sowing Season”, two of Devil and God’s scariest — truly, scary — tracks, were written spontaneously by the whole band. As iconic as Lacey’s blood-curling screams are, it’s Tierney and Lane’s parts that drive the songs’ seasickness. Just look at “Millstone”, a song with guitar groans that don’t quite mimic sirens until the hollow march of the drums and bass thunder during the outro. They broke down traditional song structure and replaced it with something manic. Brand New settled the discussion: They weren’t an emo band. They were a rock band purging every emotion that ever harmed them.
“It just exemplifies what Nirvana did for mainstream music in the early ’90s with Nevermind,” says Weiss. “I feel like that record kind of acted as sort of pioneering watermark for musical genres that existed in our country – in the world really. It broke the barrier of ‘our music just meant for this subculture.’ It’s much bigger than the ‘emo’ music scene. They’ve obviously come along and they’ve destroyed that entire limitation, that boundary, and that is the importance of that record. In this time of the early 2000s, with so much watered down musical content, they were trying to push things.”
Brand New managed to shift musically while making their major label debut. Interscope Records released the album and with it no doubt prodded the band, but they held firm. “They make their own space and they step into it seemingly without fear,” says Devine. “That isn’t the same as fearlessly; everyone has trepidation and worry, and no band is faultless in that way, no matter how punk rock you think they are, but they had a willingness to pursue their vision.”
With previous records, Brand New released singles after an album had dropped. With Devil and God, they allowed the label to release advance streams of “Sowing Season” (October 20, 2006) and “Degausser” (November 14, 2006). They performed on late night TV twice (Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Late Show with David Letterman). Changes in publicity were made, but the label knew what they were doing. Devil and God charted on the Billboard 200.
Charting may seem casual now given the critical support it’s garnered, but at the time, its creepiness seemed to have no place anywhere in mainstream circles. “They are just dudes in flannel playing songs, but there’s a drama in it. That’s not a pejorative, it’s a positive,” says Devine. “Jesse isn’t afraid to tease with that, which is why the stakes, the recording component, and the reality behind it are dark. It’s also dark from that feeling you get during ‘Degausser’ where you’re pummeled and this unhinged yelling comes in. That’s the soundtrack to a horror movie. You get the sense that the narrator is horrified by his experience, too.”
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me was and still is a title of lengthy expectations, setting the tone for extreme thrashing, but it’s the cover art that did the talking. The image is iconic, even among people uninterested in this genre of music, for its eerie contrast between a small girl and two masked figures lurking at the doorway of a house — which makes it even better that the photograph wasn’t commissioned for the record. The piece, titled “Untitled #44”, comes from photographer Nicholas Prior’s “Age of Man” collection. After seeing it on display in New York City, the band expressed interest in using it, but Prior declined access.
“A few days later, [my dealer] Yossi [Milo] called me back,” Prior explains over the phone. “He told me that he’d tried to entice them with images by other artists, but that the band felt very strongly about using my photo. I found out who the band was, and they sent me an advance copy of the album, which is what sealed the deal. At some point, I was also told that no text would run over the image, which I thought really indicated their commitment to the image.”
Commitment was an understatement. Brand New was entranced by Prior’s work and had no intent of fracturing what he captured. Initially drawn to the surface-level creepiness, each member found himself fixated on different aspects of the photograph. “I feel the place of power resides with the two people in the mask, but the girl seemed oddly calm in that situation,” Lacey told BBC when asked why they chose it. “The way she holds her arm and sleeve seems strange, like she does not know what’s round the corner.”
At the time he shot the image, Prior was interested in Freud and his writings on the uncanny, the cognitive dissonance someone feels when something is both comforting and discomforting. “Certain elements of the photo — the chipping paint or the red berries, for example — contribute to the idea of the uncanny, but they weren’t preconceived,” says Prior. “The slippers are, in a way, a lot more menacing than the dark overcoats or the rubber masks, because they are incongruous, they’re misleading, which speaks more to the idea of the album title, too.”
The truth is, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me wasn’t just an album that altered Brand New’s trajectory. It altered the path of emo and alt-rock bands at large. It blurred genre lines and bolded something beyond the band. By abandoning the clichés of their previous full-lengths, Brand New found their own voice the way their idols did (see: Modest Mouse, Neutral Milk Hotel, Built to Spill), but in a spectacular fashion.
“The bridge to ‘Not the Sun’ is maybe my favorite minute of music in their catalog,” says Devine. “Great bridges are not easy. Elliott Smith and Nada Surf have always been talented at that. That’s what I was impressed with, and I remember showing that record to my snobbier indie rock friends and telling them, ‘You guys weren’t right about this band.’ I felt this need to explain the record to my friends not because I had to, but because I wanted to. It was impressive music that needed to be heard.”
Despite this, Brand New refused to get big-headed. “There was an east coast kind of camaraderie that we shared,” says Weiss, laughing, looking back on their supporting tour with Thrice. “We just had a lot of fun going back and forth with those dudes about the Mets and the Phillies — just to let you know, at that time, it really was the peak of the rivalry between those two teams — about how the Mets had choked, that last year they were toppled over by the Phillies. It was very inspiring to see a group of guys that were out there just doing such a great job with what they were doing musically but still balanced the stupid joys of life. It really was encouraging in a lot of ways.”
Photo by Ben Kaye
Remembering the band’s place in the world speaks to the album even more. Its themes didn’t consume them; they overwhelmed them, and then they left, the way listeners themselves get wrapped tightly in past memories, struggle to free themselves from its rope, and then manage to cut free and return to the trivialities of life. A song like “Luca” begins delicately with long stretches of echo beneath it. Lacey takes his time getting to the peak, each of his words a demented bedtime story, before letting out a terrifying scream that, to this day, still catches listeners off guard. Brand New gave a voice to living nightmares and their power over the person, but they know to follow it with “Untitled”, an atmospheric number with jostled microphone sounds and distanced, unintelligible banter. The juxtaposition provides a break, but more so, it provides a trance, a loop of lonely guitar strums that raises a question: Is it better to lash out unexpectedly in a fit of anger, harming those around you, or to be swallowed whole by the indolence of dejection, harming yourself twice as much?
“Jesse is a very clever songwriter,” says Hull, speaking about his pairing of musical implications and lyrical markers. “Like anybody who takes their time and really cares about their craft, I think he takes his time to make sure what he’s saying is what he wants to say and is interesting enough to be heard.”
At times, that means nodding to other texts, like a lyric lifted from Roky Erickson’s “Bloody Hammer” for “Degausser” or a play on Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” for the second verse of “Sowing Season”. Other times, it means funneling nightmares into a seven-minute elegy. After reading about the death of local Katie Flynn, a seven-year-old girl killed by a drunk driver hours after serving as a flower girl in her aunt’s wedding, Lacey couldn’t shake the news story from his head. He wrote “Limosine” to tackle the accident from every perspective he could think of, and in the process, wrote some of his most haunting lyrics to date. (“I’ll never have to buy adjacent plots of earth/ We’ll never have to rot together underneath dirt/ I’ll never have to lose my baby in the crowd.”)
“Lyrically speaking, Jesse captures your heart a little bit more than most bands, because he’s a relatable personality on stage, and he’s definitely somewhat trustworthy,” says Weiss. “There’s just a tenderness to Jesse’s songs that makes you feel like he is sort of right there with you and questioning the same things that you’re questioning and in awe of the things that you’re in awe of — and he does it with such grace. The quality of his voice, too. It’s so tender and then it can get so … so intense and raw and real that it makes for a very charismatic but relatable frontman.”
Lacey’s words open themselves on Devil and God in a way previous records hadn’t. Each band member faced illness and death in their family life, funerals becoming a numbing event by repetition alone, but Devil and God surfaces surface-level grief. As he continues to tackle the pain of relationships (“Love’s just God on a good day”), the afterlife (“Well Jesus Christ, I’m not scared to die, I’m a little bit scared of what comes after”), religion (“You’re beating with a book everyone that book tells you to love”), and abuse (“Don’t feed me scraps from your bed and I won’t be the stray coming back just to be fed”), his phrasing becomes cryptic, technically easy to break down but somehow possessing a deeper unrest.
When asked during interviews why the band turned towards darkness on this record, Lacey pointed towards the pitfalls of life: deaths in the family, adulthood responsibilities, the latent sadness of life itself. “I hear people talk about writing songs being therapeutic, and I never really felt that until this record,” he told German publication Allschools in 2005. “I understand finally what they meant. There were a lot of questions asked that I could deal with by writing these songs.” No matter what the song is, that sense of heavy questioning, and peril from questioning, breathes underneath it.
Photo by Ben Kaye
“At first, his lyrics could be cocky, a bit like Morrissey in that way, but then the songs on Devil and God got pretty, pretty personal and pretty spiritual,” says Weiss. “Every single person can admit that sometimes when you’re laying in bed, you realize that you’re completely, utterly alone in this world, you know that you came in that way and you’re gonna leave that way. What else is there that actually is worth thinking about and searching for?”
Lacey’s not the only one penning rain clouds, either. Accardi wrote “Handcuffs” in addition to the music of “Not the Sun” and “Welcome to Bangkok”, but it’s that album closer that brings a faux sense of a relief to the album. A viola and cello hum over porch-side guitars, creating the groundwork for pensive rumination, while Acardi’s words tell a tale of inner unrest: “I’d drown all these crying babies/ If I knew that their mothers wouldn’t cry/ I’d hold them down and I’d squeeze real soft/ And let a piece of myself die/ It’s hard to be the better man when you forget you’re trying.” It’s the cost of being a hero paralleled to the urge of lashing out — a summation of every song before it and the greater sense that none of these questions have actually been answered, likely because the horrors that instigate them never sleep.
Devil and God‘s lyrics are infamous for more than how they’re sung. The CD comes with a collection of photos and phrases. Stamped at the end of the insert is “Please send $1 to [address] for a complete copy of the lyrics.” As the years passed and fans reached out, no one got their money’s worth. It wasn’t until April of last year, a whopping nine years later, that those who mailed a dollar to Brand New finally received lyric booklets in the mail (Excluding people, like myself, whose address of residency had since changed). In classic Brand New fashion, they were intricate and crafty, a reward well worth the wait, and they set aside additional copies on their merch table that year.
“Brand New do procrastination better than any other band,” says Hull, laughing. “They’re the best at it. They’re the kings, undisputed.” They shy away from press. They decline photo shoots. They see no rush in issuing physical copies — it wasn’t until 2010 that they released Devil and God as a double vinyl LP, lyric sheet included — or a new line of t-shirts, made all the cheekier by naming their self-made record label Procrastinate! Music Traitors. But truth be told, what should be Brand New’s downfall winds up waxing their allure. The authenticity laced in their work compensates for whatever wait fans endure.
Perhaps that’s the greatest mark left by The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me: a fandom that refuses to quit. Even Prior still gets a steady stream of questions about the meaning of the photograph, though he never discloses identities of the people or the location out of respect for privacy. “Once someone sent me a picture of a tattoo right after he’d gotten it, the skin still a little red and swollen,” he says. “What made me laugh was his note, which was rather succinct: ‘I hope you appreciate this.’”
Brand New opened the floodgates for emo and alt-rock acts that followed in their footsteps, but it’s the expansion of songwriting structures, the emotional intensity paired with truly impressive guitar work, that fans can and do revert to a decade later. Growing up, one of the saddest truths to accept is an album’s ability to fade. Life experiences and, more often the case, an increased breadth of music force listeners to listen differently. Songs lose their initial charm. Edgy cuts appear cheap. But in the rare case, there’s a band from your adolescence that wrote songs not for a time frame, but for a growth frame.
In the case of Devil and God, these songs are about coming to terms with the power you can wield, even when you chose not to, and how viciously it tears you up inside. It’s a dizzying rush, like chasing your own tail in an effort to both bite it and heal it, and for better or worse, the album voices that madness. It’s a growth frame that cannot be outgrown, and no matter how well we disguise it in the workplace, that’s something that never quite ends.