At the start of August last year, emo stalwarts Brand New released the mysterious and sinister Science Fiction to a surprised and elated fanbase. It signalled the end of the band’s musical legacy with an exhaustive sigh and a determination to hang it up and live in the battle with the monsters that haunted them from day one. “Batter up, give it your best shot,” the band sang as their journey finally came to an end. Those final words and the message they hold connects to all of us who found solace and understanding in the band’s lyrics, that no matter what comes our way, we aren’t going to give up. This has been a long time coming but here is my personal ranking of Brand New’s five studio records.
5. Your Favourite Weapon (2001)
For a band whose music means so much to me, it was surprisingly easy to determine what record would, unfortunately, slide into the bottom slot. Your Favourite Weapon is the band’s most straightforward record in both style and lyrical content. Despite being the record I return to the least, songs like the lead single “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad,” “Sudden Death in Carolina,” and “Failure by Design” are pop/punk gems that hold up surprisingly well by today’s standards. On the other end, songs like “The No Seatbelt Song” were precursors to what the band would eventually become. Like most debut records it is far from the band’s best, however, there are plenty of moments worth coming back to.
4. Deja Entendu (2003)
Despite being fully accustomed to the nature of lists such as these it still hurts to place Deja Entendu so low. The band shook off their angsty and rebellious pop/punk clothing and traded them for a darker, emo-tinged sound that worked so, so well. Despite lacking the emotional gut-punch of later records Deja is as compelling today as it was fifteen years ago. Needless to say, highlights abound, but the most notable are “Okay, I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t,” the emo-staple that is “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,” and “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot” which, at the risk of going overboard with the fanboying, is essentially a perfect ballad (“Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis” is a close second *grins).
3. Daisy (2009)
I would have loved to have seen the reactions of fans who put this on for the first time and heard “Vices” blast through their headphones. Daisy is Brand New’s most explosive and experimental record. It’s the enraged and frustrated breakdown after the desperate and despair filled The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me. While Brand New have always had songs featuring screaming in them Daisy turns it to eleven, and as a result, it sounds absolutely ballistic. The record recalls their tamer side on occasion, such as in “Bed,” “You Stole,” and the title track, but as a whole, it’s an aggressive and relentless beating of the emotions.
2. Science Fiction (2017)
The atmosphere surrounding the surprise release of a new Brand New record after eight long years truly felt like I was witnessing something legendary. It came out of nowhere and was met with an equal amount of ecstatic praise and disappointment. Beginning with the recording of a recovering mental patient which lays an eerie foundation for what follows, Science Fiction only becomes more twisted and black with each passing minute. It displays a band who is broken, exhausted, and frankly done with it. Considering the toll these records must have taken on them their resignation is all too understandable. In fact, I once believed that if there was ever going to be another Brand New record after Daisy, it would probably be a sub-par return to their roots or else an interesting but ultimately mediocre experiment. Oh, how wrong I was. Science Fiction is indeed experimental but it changes things up by taking everything from their previous records (“Can’t Get It Out” recalls Deja, “Same Long/Teeth” could have easily fit on Daisy, and so on) and melding them together into one cohesive masterpiece.
1. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me
I remember when the album artwork for The Devil and God first caught my eye. I was browsing a music forum when I saw this creepy cover of a little girl hiding from two masked men on a front porch. That, along with the title of the record, sent my mind alive with stories and questions. Who were these characters and what did they mean in relation to the album’s name? Who was the little girl? Was she God? Did the men represent the devil? I had to give it a listen straight away. What I experienced next was one of the most impactful first listens of any album I had ever heard. “Sowing Season (Yeah)” began with a minimalistic lament before crashing into a cacophonous chorus that shook out the average expectation I carried. And it never let up. “Jesus Christ” remains one of my top ten favourite songs of all-time. Its guitar notes are haunting and its lyrics describe doubts I still find myself feeling from time to time. It’s nothing short of harrowing. “Well, Jesus Christ, I’m not scared to die I’m a little bit scared of what comes after / Do I get the gold chariot? / Do I float through the ceiling? / At the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands? / I know you think that I’m someone you can trust / But I’m scared I’ll get scared and I swear I’ll try to nail you back up.” “Limousine” is yet another song that finds its place in my top twenty if only for the emotional reaction it elicits out of me. I remember tearing up quite heavily when I realized what it was written about and I don’t believe I’ve heard another song that’s made me feel the same way (“Fourth of July” by Sufjan Stevens is one of the few that comes close). And on it goes. Practically every song still impacts me in some way. It’s a record I will always cherish along with the rest of Brand New’s prolific discography.