Artist: Brand New
Album: Fight Off Your Demons (Demos)
Release Date: N/A (Surfaced Jan. 06)
Production: Because these are demos, I’ve chosen not to review the production value
The ‘album’ I am reviewing is the collection of nine demos that Brand New leaked onto the internet in January, entitled ‘Fight Off Your Demons’. There is much speculation surrounding the demos, including which ones will be included on the new album. You can’t purchase these demos, but they are available for download all over the internet, so you can probably just google it.
In some of his most lyrically poignant songs to date, lead singer Jesse Lacey seems to take on a few personas as we travel through the nine demos. I’m going to critique each song individually:
Untitled 1 – This is my very favourite demo so far. The opening lyric is absolutely beautiful (Well I wrote your name & burned it/To see the colour of the flame/Well it burned out the whole spectrum/As if you were everything/Mine just burned gold/A normal flame/I am not anything), and the rest of the lyrics don’t disappoint. The music is acoustic & understated, but very complimentary to the soft vocals. The overall tone is poignantly dismayed, and very fitting. The song comes across as very bittersweet, from start to finish when the song closes with “Something dies when you grow older/But you do the best you can/I am glad/I am glad…/You found a good man.”
Untitled 2 – This demo is probably the one that most surprised me. I am well aware of Lacey’s fondness of Morrissey & The Smiths (just listen to Mix Tape, and you’ll know for yourself), but at first listen, I was sort of confused. Was I listening to Brand New, or was I listening to Brand New covering The Smiths? Everything from the intricate lyrics (She was just seventeen/Pious & pretty with a deadly disease/And the weight of the world on her prosthetic shoulder), to the somewhat Morrissey-esque emulated British accent that Lacey sings with, to the anthemic chorus (And so three cheers for my morose & grieving pals/And now let’s hear it for the tears that I’ve welled up/We’ve come too far to have to give it all up now/We live lives that are rich & blessed/And we’ll burn for how we’ve transgressed) just reeks of The Smiths. It’s not neccessarily a bad thing – The Smiths are one of my favourite bands – but there comes a point when emulation becomes creepy. Luckily Brand New are just outside of the grey area on this track (which, consequently, will grow on you – I can’t stop listening).
Untitled 3 – This song starts off sounding a little more like Brand New, though the lyrics seem very forced for the first few lines (So the air’s getting colder/And the news keeps us scared/I still wrestle this summer from the bones of our tired, blistered hands), as though Lacey couldn’t think of anything to open the song, but then they ease into a smooth eloquent flow, yet again. The chorus of the song is catchy, but redundant. A few key lines in this track add great dimension to the lyrics, and it’s anti-war sentiment (‘I’ll be dead before you put a gun in my brother’s hand’).
Untitled 4 – Opens with a very 80s synth vibe, I had no idea what to expect from this track. It has a definite influence from The Smiths, but not overwhelmingly so like Untitled 2. Once the chorus kicks in, you want to sing along. It’s a very up-beat, and happy song, which is rare for Brand New, so it’s a very welcome change of pace. The lyrics are great (I’m happy to admit that maybe I am a little depressed/Cause I’m missing you to death), and Lacey’s vocals are appropriately understated. Just the use of the word posthumously is reminiscent of Morrissey’s style in some ways, and the Van Gogh anecdote is a great touch.
Untitled 5 – This demo starts off very interestingly with an almost celtic sound. As it progresses, it has a great development. The lyrics are seemingly unique and unlike anything else Brand New has done. My favourite part of this song is by far the chorus in which Lacey sings ‘Maybe we will tear you up/Take what you love/ And burn it down/Burn it down/What you swear to build/We swear to come/And burn it down/Burn it down’. Not only the lyrics, but the distinction of the vocal is moving.
Untitled 6 – The song begins with a simple acoustic guitar line, before a beautiful opening vocal comes in: ‘Well I lost my taste for the company of airports & cars/We flew through the year & avoided the dust & the rock’. It’s striking and fitting to the music. This song is again unlike any other that Brand New has released. The vocal layering in the chorus is striking, especially for a demo, and is seemingly very well composed. The music, overall, is haunting and will stick with you long after you finish listening to the song.
Untitled 7 – This song starts off with a very 80s pop sound. The piano is simple, yet striking. The lyrics are great: ‘Well take it easy/Tigers in the cage/Pacing on our pads, and waiting/For the time to come in reverie./Our lazy bones ache for our dowry./CanÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢t hold on to the thrill./So I hope you find your will to follow through./What weÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢ve invented, I am now ending./Hold on to who you love./We are tryinÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢ to blow like dust since we were young./ What weÃƒ¢Ã¢”š¬Ã¢”ž¢ve invented, I am now ending.’ Though the piano is very repetitive, it is not annoyingly poignant.Untitled 8 – This song revels in its simplicity and sad lyrics. The general lyrical message is hard to grasp, though. Several vignettes lend to a general lyrical theme, but fail to come together in a culmination. I can’t say the song is bad, though – I can’t say any Brand New song is bad as of yet.
Untitled 9 – The final demo track is one of my favourite. A lyric very appropriate to Jesse Lacey is ‘Please pose my skeletal remains./Give them a working pen/And I will live forever.’ Overall, the song is demure and understated but most definitely worth a listen.
Overall, these demos are beyond the realm of what I thought Brand New was capable of achieving on their third release. If the final recording (speculated to include only one or two of these demos) is anywhere near the creative level of these demos, it’s sure to be one of the best albums released in 2006 (or 2007 should delays continue). It’s a much anticipated album (due out on Interscope), and I can’t imagine it will disappoint.