Picture a Maginot Line, one that poorly divides music in two halves. On one half there is Brand New, and on the other half there is everyone else. That is what it seems like when you discuss Brand New, a wildly successful band with a swirling mass of fans—and at the same time a band so few will even acknowledge exists. The problem with Brand New has nothing to do with the band, per se, it's their genre—the dreaded "emo." If you believe in Brand New, it means you have to turn over that rock and concede to a world of bottom-feeding emo bands, and you don't want to do that. And you shouldn't have to.
So what if I told you that Brand New, who escaped the emo ship years ago, long before it sank deep into the pop culture lexicon, is actually a real band, one whose bombastic rock music deserves your attention and so much more? It's not an easy sell on my end, and I'll admit that as an individual pushing 30, the last thing I want to do is lobby for a band who is the peer of the emotional receding hairline that is Dashboard Confessional, or even worse, has beef with emo giants Taking Back Sunday. Yet here I am, trying to convince you that their month-old album, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, is without a doubt one of the finest records of 2006.
Like any emo frontman worth his weight in Glassjaw hoodies, Brand New's Jesse Lacey teeters between coming off as a wounded animal in need of a warm hug and a misogynistic prick, hellbent on salting the earth behind him as he torches his way through life. It's this balance that is at the very core of modern emo, and it's one that no one gets quite as right as Lacey does. Or, at least, he used to. The Devil And God is a far cry from the suburban braggadocio and the "you break my heart, I break your neck" past that Brand New will never quite escape. The emphasis here is far beyond the bedroom, as the record focuses on the growing pains of shedding your very public teenage years for an uncertain 20s, one where your band has suddenly been thrust into a major label debut, complete with a comically-large signing bonus and an obligatory bout of writer's block.
To call it maturity, or just a major label debut, would be doing The Devil And God a terrible disservice, as the album is permeated with such importance, hubris, and intelligence. It's a coming out party for your 20s, as terrifying and awkward as that might seem. But if you are of that age and you have overturned that rock to discover what dwells beneath it, you'll understand the importance of Brand New and how absolutely huge The Devil And God truly is. While it's no Nevermind, for a certain pocket of kids today it is just as important of a record. That is, if they've even heard Nevermind before, which odds are they haven't.