The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
rand New’s third album is serious stuff. Continuing on from Deja Entendu’s break from the group’s juvenile pop punk beginnings, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is musically sophisticated and lyrically complex. Witty, bitter relationship rants are a thing of the past. So is humor. Even the overwrought song titles (“Good to Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have to Do Is Die,” etc.) have been set aside. And it’s all, needless to say, a long way from the emo-theater that has taken over mainstream rock. Whereas My Chemical Romance now draws heavily on Queen, the best reference point for Brand New is Pink Floyd. Together with a bit of their usual Smiths worship, of course. (They pinch the opening of “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” for one chorus.)
Their rebranding has mixed effects. Musically, The Devil and God is stunning: guitarist Vinnie Accardi in particular creates an impressive variety of textures and structures. From the clanging drums that close “Millstone” to the beautifully chiming layered guitar of “Jesus Christ” and the cataclysmic blow out of “Limousine,” there are musical moments on every song that bear mentioning. Indeed the album’s two instrumentals, the churning “Welcome to Bangkok” and eerie “Untitled,” are actually among its strongest tracks. Subtlety, a trait rarely showcased by the group, even works: acoustic lament “Handcuffs” is a high point. As a result, the instances when Brand New do let loose and go for heaviness and throat-shredding, like on “Not the Sun” and the grungy “yeah!” chorus of single “Sowing Season,” it’s more brutally effective than ever.
Outside of these highlights? The songs don’t quite stack up. The looser structures and reliance on instrumentals give Jesse Lacey less room to maneuver and his biting lyrical insight is often missed. He still conjures up arresting images (“drop me a line with a hook and some raw bleeding bait” in “Luca,” “Limousine”’s chilling “It's your day to wed / We found your man / He's drinking up / He's all-American / And he'll drive”) but they rarely add up to coherent songs—and nothing consistently cuts to the bone like Deja Entendu’s highlights. It doesn’t help that his idea of matching the rest of the band’s ambition is to be wordier and more obscure than ever: the aforementioned “Limousine” also features head-scratchers like “You tiny boat with all feather on / The world tips back and pours and pours” and he crams the lines “In heaven there’s no husbands and wives / On the day that I show up they'll be completely out of their forgiveness supplies” into “You Won’t Know.” What we mostly get is a situation much like the one you get in listening to Pink Floyd: bear the lyrics, stay for the music.
Reviewed by: Iain Forrester
Reviewed on: 2006-11-27