Sound — 4
On 2003's excellent Deja Entendu, Brand New realized that whispering and screaming weren't the only ways to convey emotion, and that there were more than one emotion worth conveying. Around witty, well-crafted hooks/lyrics, frontman Jesse Lacey paid tribute not only to the people who have hurt him, but the people that he had hurt. Epic, sexy songs about shipwrecks, debauchery, first times, and cold, heart taking men. But on their major label debut, he seems more worried about saving his soul. The album is riddled with references to God, Satan, and everything that tempts one to either side. The point (and selling factor) is melodrama, but Lacey and the band makes it work in a way so many of their peers attempt but fail. On "Jesus" he begs forgiveness and worries about an afterlife without God. On "Millstone" his mindset is a little more South of Heaven as he rejects those that would care for him for a tempting life of sin, free of mortal worries. And perhaps for the first time, the band's influences come into play more than on previous efforts, such as Modest Mouse guitar squeals in "Jesus." And the opening two minutes of the excellent "Limousine" sound like an outtake from Ok Computer. But there is a line from using influences and completely stealing them, and they have yet to learn how to manage that. But they've done a better job than their peers (example: Thursday borrowing so heavy from their influences on their latest album that it borders plagerism).
Lyrics — 3
The lyrics seem to have taken a backseat to the overall feel of the album, but as Thom Yorke would easily argue, it's not what you say but how you say it. And with any obviously personal effort, that's understandable. Some of these lines soar, some of these sink. Lacey paves the way for this adventure on "Sowing Season," proclaiming "It's losing all my friends/it's losing them from drinking and to driving." Such blunt exclamations work exceptionally well on the majority of these tracks to keeping with the raw emotion, but others fail to register. But on "Limousine" as Lacey repeats over and over "I love you so much/do me a favor baby don't reply/cuz I can dish it out but I can't take it" you feel as if you're their with him, in his apartment, consoling him like a hurt child, wallowing in his self-pity.
Overall Impression — 8
It's been a year of risky discs, bands trying to top their previous efforts with blaoted, experimental music that's more questionable than listenable. But for a band who has topped themselves with every album, The Devil and God is a welcome fit, and a new addition to whatever direction Brand New choose to go in. The meloncholy and melodrama is too much for most people to take, even devoted fans, and a great deal of these songs are long and so-so. But as with almost all experimental albums, this is one for people who will "get it," which may be less than expected. But there is fun in tweaking a sound, which the boys are doing, and the majority of it does sound damn good.