Sound — 9
I've been waiting for a while to review this album, been seeing whether it wears thin after a couple of hundred listens. It doesn't. If anything, it becomes even more of a masterpiece. It's completely unfair to compare TD&GARIM to Brand New's previous albums, but it's inevitable, because there's so much evolution from one to another. Deja Entendu was a band trying to realise who they were - very formulative - but you could tell that if they did a little bit of growing up they could make something amazing. On Deja Entendu, they improved by leaps and bounds, lyrically, musically, thematically ... blah, blah, blah ... you're all Brand New fans, you know what I'm talking about. The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me is the realisation of Brand New's evolution. No doubt they'll continue to mature and grow, but they've now come into their own. They've perfected the dynamic soft/loud shifts, Jesse's voice has way more range and he uses it to even more subtly devastating effects, the drumbeats are more adventurous, and the guitar ... phenomonal - perfectly suits the emotion of every song. "Sowing Season (Yeah)" starts out soft and subtle, but in classic Brand New style reaches a roaring crescendo. Vinnie Accardi completely wrote the closer "Handcuffs" and is a real credit to his talents, although it isn't quite as good as some of Brand New's previous soft songs (such as "Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis"). "You Won't Know", "Not The Sun" and "The Archer's Bows Have Broken" are the most instantly likeable. More importantly, they stay likeable. Personally, my favourite is "Limousine", although it took a few listens to realise its beauty. The beginning is slow and brooding, and a little bit hard to listen to. The chorus makes use of the tried-and-true soft/loud dynamic, and then the 2nd verse is much easier to digest, being slightly more upbeat and melodic. The bridge is what makes this song really spectacular, as Jesse uses his voice to the best of his ability to display the aching, gut-wrenching emotion of the line "I love you so much/Do me a favour babe, don't reply/Cause I can dish it out/But I cant take it" whilst Vinnie slowly builds up the guitar into a mind-blowing climax that is close to orgasmic. The one weak spot would have to be "Welcome to Bangkok", the instrumental filler, although I suppose it fulfils its purpose in comfortably bridging the gap between the 1st and 2nd parts of the album.
Lyrics — 10
A large part of Brand New's edge has always come from Jesse Lacey's amazing skill for writing deep, slightly off-centre lyrics that cut straight to the heart of the matter being written about. TD&GARIM is a continuation on that, but in an unpredictable way. As the title makes obvious, the album has a lot of content that deals with religion. Sounds bad, doesn't it? But in fact it isn't, because it's an in-depth exploration of - and, at times, a question of - spirituality. "Sowing Season" doesn't really touch on religion, but "Millstone", the 2nd track is all about it. With lyrics like "I used to sleep without a single stir/Cause I was about my father's work" and "I used to pray like God was listening/I used to make my parents proud", it's obvious Jesse isn't bible-bashing here. In fact, with lyrics such as "Well, Jesus Christ, I'm not afraid to die/But I'm a little bit scared of what comes after" (plus the entire last verse), Track 3 "Jesus Christ" asks some good questions about accepted Christian principles such as the immortality of the soul. Even songs that revolve around love and relationships or loneliness and disappointment, such as "Degausser" and "Limousine", are haunted by theology ("When I arrive will God be waiting and pacing around his throne?/Will he feel a little Old Testament?/And will he celebrate with fire and brimstone?/Yeah, I admit, I am afraid of the reckoning" for the former; "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'" for the latter). Meanwhile "Archer's..." blatantly criticises the hypocrises of religion, with lyrics like "Who do you carry that torch for, my young man?/Do you believe in anything?/Or do you carry it around just to burn things down?", "While you're beating with a book/everyone that book tells you to love", and "Cause the God i believe in never worked on a campaign trail". It's all very serious stuff, but Jesse handles it with his trademark sarcasm and acerbic wit. However, the quirky kind of lyrics dealing very poetically with slightly disturbing topics (as found on "Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades" and "Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis") are laregly absent, although "Handcuffs" does display a darker side ("I'd drown all these crying babies/If I knew that their mothers wouldn't cry/I'd lower them down and squeeze real soft/And let a piece of myself die"). TD&GARIM and its deep musings on love, relationships, loneliness, religion, penitence, regret, fear, vulnerability and (as always) bitterness consolidate Jesse Lacey's position as one of modern rock's best lyricists.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is the kind that is an instant alternative classic. Not everyone will get it and, although it has the potential to, I doubt it'll really hit the mainstream in a big way. But it will be influential to many, many people and countless bands will try to emulate the sound only to fail. Brand New have one of those undefinable qualities that set them apart. The development of their sound on TD&GARIM is an exhilirating journey, despite its few (insignificant) flaws. It better not take another three years for them to release the next album, because I already can't wait.