“Who is Brand New?” is a question I find myself answering in casual conversation with others more often than not. I don’t claim that they’re some unknown band and feel any sort of pride or uniqueness if a majority of people don’t recognize their name. Their devout fanbase makes Brand New seem to be as legendary as Pink Floyd, and in the hearts of many, they are. Brand New are one of alternative music’s best kept secrets - in their scene, they are huge, but nine out of ten people you will meet will probably ask you: “Who is Brand New?”
On November 21st, 2006 Brand New released The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. (If you read that it was released on the 20th, that is technically incorrect - it was available for streaming and released in the United Kingdom on November 20th, but officially released through Interscope in the United States on November 21st). The Devil and God received nothing but positive reviews upon it’s release, and it is vastly considered Brand New’s best album. The Devil and God has reached an immeasurable cult status despite only being ten years old. The Devil and God is a story, like every other album Brand New has released. Picking a favourite Brand New album is like picking a favourite child. Some days it’s The Devil and God, some days it’s Deja Entendu. On hot summer days it’s Your Favorite Weapon and on a dark winter’s night, it’s Daisy. If you haven’t already figured, I’m obviously biased as Brand New is one of my favourite bands of all time. However, I truly believe that they don’t have a single bad song. Whether that be my bias or fact, none of their songs are intolerable. I can appreciate that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea - can you believe that music can be too depressing for some people? Their music is considered precious and a lifeline to so many. Brand New are not just a band, they’re artists. The term artist is used loosely in this day and age, and not in a bad way. Anyone can be an artist, and we are all artists of our own craft. Brand New, however, are true artists, and The Devil and God is one of the few albums that I, and many others, consider to be a masterpiece. They started as just a punk band from Long Island who just wanted to make music - they didn’t want fame, fortune, or anything like that. They just wanted to make honest music and hope that it would resonate with people. Isn’t that the point of art? To express yourself and share an emotional connection with complete strangers. There’s solidarity in that, and it makes us feel much less alone. The Devil and God tells a story, and it is the third chapter of Brand New’s book. Every song is a paragraph: raw, bleeding with emotion, honesty, and pain.
Everything about The Devil and God was thought out, from every note to every photograph inside the album booklet, and especially the album cover. Untitled #44 is a photograph taken from Nicholas Prior’s Age of Man series and is the iconic album cover for The Devil and God (Alternative Press recently interviewed him, and it is an amazing read which I highly recommend). It is simplistic but captivating, and it’s minimalist approach is thought-provoking. This photograph alone has captivated millions, from everyone who has purchased the album to people who have passively flipped through vinyl at record shops and paused, wondering who this band is. It goes to show the power of a great photograph, as well as the power of great music: when combined, it’s an unstoppable force.
From the quiet start of “Sowing Season,” into the abrupt, in your face, screams, The Devil and God beautifully transitions into the self-depreciating “Millstone,” and from there to the ever haunting and beautiful “Jesus.” Songs like “Limousine” which is about a girl getting decapitated by a drunk driver, will make you feel emptier than you’ve ever felt, but is an expression of sorrow that takes you away from your own pain for a while. Brand New have a way of deconstructing the unfathomable and make it relatable for their listeners. “You Won’t Know” is an in your face anthem, and is one of the best tracks on the record. “Not the Sun” is a desperate cry for love, and “The Archers Bows Have Broken” is my personal favourite off of The Devil and God. It’s probably the most simplistic song on the record lyrically, but the lyric “Who do you carry the torch for?” is one that has stuck with me since the moment I heard it. It’s anthemic chorus is one you want to scream from the rooftops for the world to hear.
So, who are Brand New? The short answer that you’ll find on Wikipedia is: “Brand New is a rock band from Long Island, New York.” But the real answer? No one really knows. The mystery that they shroud themselves in is what makes them stand out, and separates their creative identity from anyone else. This identity makes them as individuals seem just out of reach, but their music hits hard and close to home. From fan to fan, the answer to this question will vary. For me, the answer is Brand New are my safety net, a comfort in times when happiness is not at the forefront of my mind - Brand New, simply put, are my favourite band. None of us know what will happen - if we will ever hear album number five, if we will ever see them in concert again, and if 2018 really marks the end of what we have come to know and love as those 4 guys from Long Island who call themselves Brand New. The future of this band is an unclear, a foggy unknown. All that is certain is what they have given us thus far, and the path that they have paved for other artists and fans alike. When 2018 rolls around, with whatever happens, the legacy that they have created and will leave us with will be poignant, and a bittersweet goodbye. We can all celebrate, knowing that we were apart of something that was so much more than just “music,” - we were a part of a movement. We are a part of a culture, and just as much a part of this legacy as the band. Carry your own torch, blaze the trail for others, and fight off your demons.