The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me by Brand New
Brand New’s second album Deja Entendu put them on the map and some would argue is their best album. As a result the band felt a lot of pressure and took over three years to release a follow up. Usually when a band takes that long to put out an album the outcome is mediocre at best. To make matters worse Brand New had also signed to major record label and during the recording process they fought the label for artist control. Also during that time a number of the songs they had been working on were leaked online, much to the band’s dismay and although I never heard any of those leaked tracks, most people’s response wasn’t positive. The odds were stacked against Brand New and yet there was still an ever growing sense of anticipation. Then in the fall of 2006 after a couple of missed release dates, after the album artwork had been revealed and the first single released, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me hit stores. Some artists best work comes out of great adversity and with Brand New that couldn’t have been more true, The Devil and God was and is a masterpiece. From the very first listen I was blown away and couldn’t get enough. In terms of structure and execution it was unlike anything I’ve heard or have heard since.
My wife pointed out something recently I found really interesting. She was commenting on another band, saying they were too predictable and she wished they were more unpredictable like Brand New. As soon as she said that a light bulb went off and I knew that is the reason Brand New and this album in particular as so good. For example, when the first single Sowing Season was released I read a comment in which someone was complaining about how they didn’t like the way the song was mixed and how it wasn’t very polished. You’d expect them especially on a major label release, to be polished, but they they did the unexpected and gave the song a stripped low-fi sound, which is totally what makes the song. It ebbs and flows from quite refrains to loud choruses with reverbing guitars. Effectively Brand New have created a musical experience not unlike being on a rollercoaster blind folded.
Musically this album is dense, but Brand New aren’t the kind of band who uses a wide range of instrumentation they instead get the most out of the standard tools of the rock band trade, guitars, bass and drums. Each song has layers upon layers of sound, so that with each listen there is something new to be heard. On the song Degausser there are several vocal tracks layered throughout giving it a chaotic haunting feel. There aren’t many bands I’ve heard, capable of pulling off a sound like that without it sounding like a muddled mess.
If you haven’t noticed by now I’m a big lyrics guy and singer Jesse Lacey writes some of my favorite. On The Devil and God he was clearly working through some demons. Many songs deal with a break up Lacey was going through at the time, expressing both frustration and self doubt. Lacey has always been known for using Christian imagery in his songs, which is especially true on this album. On the song Jesus, he clearly seems to have an understanding of the Christian faith, but wrestles with what it means for him in his life. Here is a line from that song as well as a few other great lines from this album:
“Jesus Christ I’m alone again, so what did you do those three days you were dead?” from Jesus
“before you put my body in the cold ground, take some time and warm it with your hands” from Sowing Season
“Goodbye to sleep, I think this staying up is exactly what I need, take apart your head, take apart the counting and the flock it has bred.” from Degausser
“In the choir, I saw our sad Messiah, he was bored and tired of my laments he said, ‘I died for you one time, but never again.'” from Limousine
In my mind you need a minimum of the following elements to make a great album; creativity, unpredictability, passion, excellent musicianship, strong vocals and well written lyrics. All the albums I chose for my 25 favorite albums of the decade feature at least some of those elements. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me has them all and some. It is as near perfect as an album can get and is why I chose it as my favorite album of the decade.