Ten years of Raging Inside: Reflecting on how Brand New’s magnum opus ‘The Devil And God’ still resonates today
Posted: by The Editor
There’s music you want and there’s music you need. Music you can always come back to. Music you grown into rather than grow out of. For me, and for many others I’m sure, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me is that music.
Ten years ago I didn’t truly understand the pain, guilt, loss or any of the darker themes this album explores and exposes. But at some point I came back to this record and never left it again because it became a piece of solace and safety.
On this album, Brand New are much more destructive than structured, but it’s that irrationality that gives the songs their integrity. After Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu the band could have easily went the direction of embracing mall rock and MTV. Instead, Devil And God completely alienated the band from those pop tendencies, while uniting them with listeners old and new who didn’t even know they needed such a record.
The guitars constantly disassociate into feedback and the melodies are often so sparse that you’re not sure if you’re imagining them. The lyrics switch from naive to oddly specific, yet you may find sense and relatability in all of it. Despite how brash this record is, it’s also very approachable.
Songwriting and storytelling are the same craft for Jesse Lacey. The first song on the record, “Sowing Season (Yeah)“, incorporates lines from the Rudyard Kipling poem “If:” “Twisted up by knaves / to make a trap for fools.” It isn’t just religion and literature that inspired the content of this album, it was personal experiences. The album hits its breaking point at “Limousine”, a song grieving from multiple perspectives about the death of seven-year-old Katie Flynn. She and her family were coming home from a wedding when their limousine was hit by a drunk driver in the band’s hometown on Long Island. On this track, as well as others throughout the album, Brand New take similar approaches to the universal feelings of love and loss and the results are sobering.
In an archived page on BCC lives an interview where Lacey speaks about the name of the album having come from an exchange with a friend about a musician who suffered from paranoia and schizophrenia. The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me is a juxtaposition of good and evil; soft and loud; even life and death. This is illustrated effortlessly by the artwork of the album, a creepy image of a young, careless girl just around the corner from two men in masks. The photo was actually a part of artist Nicholas Prior’s “Age of Man,” which he says on his website is “influenced by Freud’s writings on The Uncanny, and the idea that an adult cannot look back on childhood as a child, which implies a mysterious and impenetrable chasm between adults and children.”
For me personally, this album embodies what it feels and sounds like to be in a dark place mentally. It’s unstructured, bone-chilling, frightening, isolating, and reckless. But that’s the beauty of it. It’s real. It’s not pretending to have all the answers and not pretending to be OK. It’s fighting, which is all you really can do. I think this may have been the first album that felt like therapy to me and not simply coping. Other albums labeled “emo” were certainly emotional, but it’s The Devil And God I return to because it doesn’t ask anything of me. There’s no demanding bridges and catchy choruses. Just an otherworldly limbo to float in for 55 minutes.
Earnest Hemingway once said, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” I think this album is for when you break, because it may actually make you stronger.
“I am on the mend.
At least now I can say that I am trying.
And I hope you will forget things I still lack.”
—”Sowing Season (Yeah)”
Hannah Hines | @Hannah70x7