I've had a copy of this album since late October of last year. I've been meaning to write a review of it every day since then, I really have. There's just one small problem: it seems like almost every time I put this album on to really analyze it, various friends come in the room and stay for a few songs, then decide that they want to borrow the album. This game of CD cat-and-mouse has been going on for months now.
My Drive-Thru Records addict friend Mike has fallen in love with this band. He worships their really innovative three-voiced harmonies, as do I [we're both choir geeks]. He also loves how the band can cram a year's worth of hooks into just one song [take a listen to "Jude Law and a Semester Abroad" for an example]. Then there's my friend Craig whose favorite bands are Dashboard Confessional and Alkaline Trio. He loves this album because of all the emotion you can pick up in the vocals. The lyrics especially are pretty deep without making your head hurt, and some are just downright nasty. a sample from "Seventy Times 7" : "Have another drink and drive yourself home / I hope there's ice on all the roads / And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt / and again when your head goes through the windshield." On a side note, ladies, this is why you do not date a musician. Anyway. Frequent visitors to my reviews might recall my friend Liz; even as a "jaded scenester" like herself, she likes this a lot. My Illinois-via-California friend Justin loves this because, to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator, Brand New is able to be a pop-punk band without sounding stale and repetitive. That is a feat in itself. So what is my verdict? It's pretty much a conglomeration of all of my friend's opinions.
This album has some *really* strong tracks, and there aren't really any songs that warrant the pressing of the "skip" button [although, on days, "The No Seatbelt Song" really gets on my nerves]. Opener "The Shower Scene," while sounding nothing like the rest of the album, propels the album straight out of the gates with a very Hot Rod Circuit-like style. Immediately following that is the aforementioned "Jude Law," which in an alternate universe would be topping radio and MTV charts across the planet. "Mix Tape" makes me laugh every time I listen to it, with sardonic lyrics like "I know that you're a sucker for anything acoustic / when I say let's keep in touch, I really mean I hope that you'd grow up / This is the first song for your mixtape, and it's short just like your temper / somewhat golden like the afternoons we used to spend before you got to cool." "Failure By Design" is about as straight up rock as you can get, which gets a thumbs up from me. And of course what pop-punk album would be complete with an acoustic song at the end? In this case, the song is called "Soco Amaretto Lime," and is a very quiet, slow paced song until it gets cut off in mid-chorus by the sound of a record skipping. It's kind of a cute way for the band to tell the listener the album is over.
But this band is not all roses. My biggest complaint is also one of my biggest praises - the band's vocal harmonies. I've seen them live twice [again, guys, I'm totally sorry for that Davenport, IA show] and they are a live force to be reckoned with. On recording, while their music comes across pretty closely, the vocals just comes off as sounding too whiny and high pitched. Of course, all this makes me want to is see the band live again, so it can't be all that bad of a complaint.
In conclusion [shit, it sounds like I'm writing a term paper], Brand New has got what thousands of other pop-punk bands do not. There really isn't a name for what they have, it's just that *thing* that only certain bands who are a cut above the rest have. This band is going to go on to bigger and better things and I wouldn't be surprised if, within 5 years, they're on a super big indie like Vagrant Records, or possibly even a major label. You're getting proper warning now.
Seventy Times 7
Jude Law and a Semester Abroad
Failure By Design