I love me some Brand New. This suburban New York band, which teeters on the tightrope between indie-rock and... okay, whatever, I'm lying. This is an emo band. Emo as fuck. E to the M to the motherfucking O. Scarlet "E" emblazoned on their chests forever and ever. It's about time I come to terms with this and stop lying about it.
The short version of this long story: Brand New was birthed in Long Island, NY. Shortly after which they released a record called Your Favorite Weapon, but you can forget about that—we won't be talking about that album ever again. What we will talk about is their next record (Deja Entendu), singer Jesse Lacey's songwriting, last year's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, and of course, the genre of emo.
While ripe with dollar signs and some Dashboard kid, the emo landscape had yet to be fully harvested by 2003. Before the slow stranglehold the genre eventually put on pop culture, there was some hope that emo would just wise up, go back under its rock, and stay there. Forever. Of course it didn't—otherwise you wouldn't have had My Chem's "Welcome to the Black Parade" stuck in your head for the past six months—and now we live in a world where it's omnipresent. Now there is emo-rap, numerous books on the topic, local news reports warning parents that emo leads to rampant "cutting," and of course, the token emo kid on The Real World. But in 2003, there was hope, there was Brand New, and a record called Deja Entendu.
To understand Deja Entendu you should know that Brand New has always been neck deep in emo. Friends and former bandmates went on to form a who's who of emo superstars (Taking Back Sunday, Nightmare of You, Straylight Run), and as 2003 hit, it was clear that Brand New was about to get their slice. Instead they defied expectations and made a record that was little more than a sly "fuck you" to the genre, friends, and fans alike. Deja is the back-against-the-wall reactionary plea from a band that had no business sounding so desperate. Impossibly dark and utterly hopeless, the record finds a sliver of hope in the opaque surroundings of Lacey's forced optimism. Like a younger Greg Dulli, Lacey is a brass-balled prick, a young fuck-and-flee misogynist who bursts at the seams with a staggering amount of confidence. The type of frontman who is not afraid to set you up with lines like, "My tongue will taste the gin and malicious intent/Bring you back to the bar/Get you out of the cold/A sober straight face gets you out of your clothes," before finally cutting the shit and getting to his true intentions: "If you let me have my way, I swear I'll tear you apart." Despite all this, Deja was an unlikely hit, and soon after, major labels rolled-up in Brinks trucks, eager to sign the band that would save/sell emo.
Of course, that never happened. Three years passed before The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me was released, and when it hit, the earth didn't move like it once had for Brand New. In those three years, for better or worse, we all became familiar with Seth Cohen (and Captain Oats), Pete Wentz (and Sidekick photos of his limp dick), and about another million or so emo references crammed down our collective throats. Emo was here to stay, with or without Brand New. It's a shame too, because The Devil is a seriously commanding album, one in which the band does everything in its power to rid themselves of their albatross and be born anew.If Fallout Boy is for the Hot Topic masses, Brand New is the populist candidate, the workingman's emotive howl set to a backbeat of suburban restlessness.
As the band took its sweet time crafting a follow-up album, they ditched the idea of becoming emo's biggest act, and set their sights on the equally comical goal of becoming rock's biggest band, ever. This goal, a setup made for failure, was just the sort of overly ambitious act you have grown to expect from Brand New. It's arguable that the emo moniker—the one that just won't go away in both our culture and this article—even still applies to The Devil, but regardless, the band seems to have made their peace with the genre, kissed its eyes closed, and buried it in the ground. I really wish I could do the same.