“The Devil and God…’ saved Brand New,” admitted Jesse Lacey in 2012. With the band once again reflecting on its importance earlier this year as they pushed back their on again/off again fifth album, it’s tough to argue against its importance to the Long Island four-piece. More than simply a personal milestone though,‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’ is one of the greatest albums of all time.
Back in 2006, it was one of a kind and a decade later, we still haven’t seen anything else like it. Following the success of their second album ‘Deja Entendu’, the band disappeared for eighteen months to reconnect to their real lives. They went into the unknown with an album’s worth of songs already written, ready for their return, but they came back together in the autumn of 2005 changed men. The immediate follow-up to ‘Deja’ was scrapped, and ‘TDAG’ took shape.
Gone was the smirking poetry of old and in its place, an epic existential crisis in twelve parts. Bloodied, bruised and beaten down,‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’ tackles exactly what it says on the tin. The record questions right and wrong and looks at belief, loss and regret with agonising honesty and in microscopic detail.
From the opening admission of ‘Sowing Season’, Brand New pull away from the expectation of relationships as they retreat into themselves in a bid preserve what little they have left. It’s a stark contrast to the Brand New of old who were obsessed with preserving their ties to others but as the impending admissions of ‘Millstone’ take over, the band make it clear: “I used to care, I was being cared for / Made sure I showed it to those that I love.”
As much as ‘TDAG’ pulls away from the world, it never breaks all bonds. In the dark and lonely spirals are glimmers of hope. ‘Jesus’ might focus on being a sinner and the fear of repeating the same mistakes, but there’s a peacefulness to it. There’s an optimism to ‘The Archer’s Bows Have Broken’ as well as the young lovers’ rage against those trying to break them down.
For the most part though, ‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’ focuses on the dark recesses of the soul. It’s an exploration of belief that holds nothing back. Frank and wide-eyed, it asks questions that only you will ever be able to answer but it provides just enough humanity to offer a comfort in the search. ‘Deja’ may have helped shape a genre, but ‘TDAG’ does the same thing with people’s lives.
While the lyrics may obsess with life and death, musically Brand New created a landscape of fire, rage and beauty. Quiet one moment, explosive the next (literally during ‘Limousine’), ‘TDAG’ is a record attacking from all angles.
You don’t have to tear yourself apart to enjoy it either. The likes of ‘You Won’t Know’ and ‘Not The Sun’ are certified bangers, ‘Jesus’ is the song that the person with an acoustic guitar should always cover, and ‘Limousine (MS Rebridge’), written about the tragic death of car crash victim, 7-year-old Katie Flynn, channels such a raw intensity it’s hard not to be moved.
The band don’t even need words to channel emotion. ‘Untitled’ and ‘Welcome To Bangkok’ barely say anything but can still evoke like the best of them. Even the cover art, Untitled 44 from Nicolas Prior’s Age Of Man series, influenced by Freud’s writings on The Uncanny, and the idea that an adult cannot look back on childhood as a child, launches you down a road with many questions and few answers.
‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’ established Brand New as the band we know today. Before this record, they were part of a pack. They may have been a big fish but they were sharing the pond. That changed with this record. It was also when they stopped playing by the rules. Fan theories about running order and meaning, instructions
in the CD booklet to send a dollar to an address and unknown lyrics (hello ‘Degausser’), this album let Brand New play with layers for the first time and it’s a game they’re still enjoying to this day. The shenanigans they’ve been playing recently, they started here.
It also opened up the idea that bands could sing about more. It’s hard to imagine a world where letlive. and The Wonder Years have evolved so fiercely and have a platform to speak about things bigger than themselves without the success and adoration towards Brand New’s ‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me’.
It’s a record that captures a band on the very brink, tearing themselves apart to find something worth holding onto. In the darkness though, they found a light and ten years on, it’s still burning brightly.