Brand New’s “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me” Ten Years Later

If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably noticed that it’s titled Books, Records, Films with Nick.  You may have also noticed that while I’ve talked about books and films, I’ve yet to talk about records.  This is surprising because I’m an avid music fan and record collector.  Fear no more, because today’s the perfect day to write a music blog.

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Untitled 44 by Nicholas Prior served as the album cover.

Ten years ago, what is considered by many as New York-based alternative rock band Brand New’s masterpiece and magnum opus, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, was released.  The album has since become synonymous with the band; representing the sound that is most often associated to them as well as everything the band stands for.  This could be taken as a dark thing to say seeing how unsettling the record’s title and artwork are.  However, underneath its threatening appearance (and for many cases, threatening first couple of listens), lies a beautiful, tender, vulnerable piece of art that is heralded by their contemporaries (and fanbase) as their best record.

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One of the few promo shots for Brand New.

TDAGARIM was actually my introduction to Brand New.  Back when Pandora was the most popular music streaming service, I remember a couple songs being played on a similar artist’s station.  My first impression of them was not a good one.  Of course, I took an early liking to “Jesus”, one of their most accessible songs.  I enjoyed “Handcuffs” as well, probably due to it being the softest on the record.  After some time, I bought a physical copy of the CD, hoping I would like them a little more.  At that point in my music listening, I was just making the transition from classic rock acts from the 60’s-80’s to indie/alternative bands of the 2000’s.  Devil and God proved too harsh for me at first.

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Deja Entendu: easier listening for beginner Brand New fans.

Deja Entendu, their sophomore effort, was much more easy for me to get into.  I deemed that album as my personal favorite (and still consider it so), but as the years have gone by I’ve come to appreciate Devil and God more and more.  Just as the band has evolved and matured in their work, I feel that their fans do the same.

Devil and God served as a major change for the band stylistically and lyrically.  Their previous two efforts, Your Favorite Weapon and the aforementioned Deja Entendu, forced them into the pop-punk and “2000’s ’emo'” genres, complete with melodic, radio-friendly choruses and teen-inspired subject matter.  During the writing process for Devil and God, the band members were going through family deaths, newfound adult responsibilities, and spiritual struggles, leaving chief songwriter and frontman Jesse Lacey to pen different, more mature material.  Such examples like “Millstone” and “Jesus” deal with religious aspects while “Limousine (MS Rebridge)” was influenced by the tragic death of seven year old Katie Flynn and tells her story through several perspectives.

The band themselves even recognize what a seminal and important record this is for them.  In a public statement to their fans this past September, they regarded Devil and God as “an important record and piece of work to us, and one that ten years later we still use as a measuring post with which we compare the music we make now.”  Brand New hasn’t released a new studio album since 2009, so one can only hope that they are trying their best to one-up their masterpiece.  Their immense and dedicated fanbase are not too hurt, though.  The band played the album in its entirety on their most recent tour (something I was fortunate enough to witness) to keep them satisfied for a little while.  Until then, they will have to continue to revisit older albums and celebrate Devil and God’s tenth anniversary.

You can revisit the album here.

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