Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brand Old

Hey everybody, Brand New are back! They've just released a new song for the first time since 2009, and while nothing has been confirmed yet, it doesn't seem too unreasonable to assume that Mene will eventually be followed by a new LP.

However, I haven't listened to that new song yet, and I'm not here today to talk about Brand New's brand new album (which may or may not even be in the pipeline right now). I'm here to talk about their old albums, specifically Your Favorite Weapon and Déjà Entendu.

These two records have been on my rack for years, and the thing that continues to amaze me is how much they made of the genres they respectively tackled.

Allow me to explain...

Your Favorite Weapon

An intelligent pop-punk album

If I say 'pop-punk', you probably think of bands like Blink-182 and The Offspring; fun acts, for sure, but not particularly clever. While I doubt I'll ever tire of listening to Enema of the State, I don't love it for its lyrical content; with the honourable exception of Adam's Song, every track on that album is spectacularly juvenile, from opening track Dumpweed ("I need a girl that I can train!") to the brilliant closer Anthem ("Forgive our neighbour Bob, I think he humped the dog").

By contrast, Your Favorite Weapon - Brand New's 2001 debut, and very much a pop-punk record at heart - is astoundingly clever with its words. Here, for example, are the opening lines of Jude Law and a Semester Abroad:

"Whatever poison's in this bottle will leave me broken, sore, and stiff,
But it's the genie at the bottom who I'm sucking at,
He owes me one last wish!
So here's a present to let you know I still exist,
I hope the next boy that you kiss has something terribly contagious on his lips!"

Compare that verse to this excerpt from Blink-182's Dysentery Gary; thematically, there are similarities, but lyrically, it's not even in the same league:

"He's a player, diarrhea giver,
Tried to grow his hair out, friends were listening to Slayer,
I would like to find him Friday night,
Hanging out with mom and trying on his father's tights!
Life just sucks, I lost the one, I'm giving up, she found someone,
There's plenty more, girls are such a drag!"

The music, too, is far more advanced than any other pop-punk album I've heard. Intricate three-part harmonies, a variety of feels and tempos, anthemic choruses that should, by rights, be too clunky and verbose to work...Your Favorite Weapon has the lot.

Déjà Entendu

The emo album that it's OK to love

I was in high school during the Golden Age of acts like My Chemical Romance and Panic! At The Disco. Sadly, enjoying the music that these bands were making was - at least in my circle of friends - an unforgivable crime; we thought that the 'emo kids' who listened to that kind of stuff needed to 'cheer up' and 'stop cutting themselves'.

(I make no excuses for any of that. Teenagers are often dicks, and I was no exception.)

Eventually, I re-evaluated my outlook and decided that I needn't be ashamed of being thrilled by The Black Parade. Before that, though, I discovered Déjà Entendu, and I loved it so much that I didn't even realise how emo it was.

For illustrative purposes, here are a few lines from The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot, my personal highlight of this album:

"If it makes you less sad, I will die by your hand,
I hope you find out what you want,
Already know what I am.
And if it makes you less sad, we'll start talking again,
And you can tell me how vile I already know that I am."

If Gerard Way had sung that back in 2006, my friends and I would have torn him apart. But, for some reason, my emo alarm didn't go off when I listened to Déjà Entendu - perhaps because everything was still couched in the same sensibilities and self-awareness that had previously made Your Favorite Weapon the acceptable - nay, the laudable face of pop-punk.

You see, where The Black Parade is an album about dying of cancer in the most theatrical way imaginable, Déjà Entendu is an album about...well, lots of things, and there are enough quotable couplets, deep thoughts, and non-emo trappings on this album for me to accept and embrace the parts that might otherwise have reminded me that I wasn't supposed to like this kind of music.

* * *

What now, then? Perhaps Brand New's next album will take the stale funk music that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been selling for decades and somehow make that cool and awesome and intelligent. Time will tell, I suppose.

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