The Devil and God Are (Still) Raging Inside Me
Be still my teenage angst; Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me has been repressed and is in Mills Record Company as I type. The album sits comfortably between the band’s emotional break through Deja Entendu and their noisy, art-rock experiment Daisy. It’s an album of transition both conceptual and structurally. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me keeps all of the emotive lyrical wallop of Brand New’s previous releases and begins to show the guys working with song structure and musical tones. The result is 55 minutes of power.
The album begins with the song couplet of “Sowing Season” and “Millstone.” “Sowing Season” unfurls more minimally melodic and elegiac while “Millstone” has brooding undercurrents and self-directed rage curling around its center. These two songs sample well the tones Brand New collages together for the album. Structurally, the songs are reminiscent of Deja Entendu (namely “Me vs. Madonna vs. Elvis” and “Guernica”). That said, within their bars, one can hear the band pushing through the elements that had previous constrained them.
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me came out at a pivotal point in my life. I was on the cusp of graduating high school and leaving Kansas City for college. The album weaves together the complicated feels of that time—disappointment in oneself, hope for the future, a burgeoning awareness of politics, the loneliness that comes from living in a different place than most of your friends—without seeming to try too much. Truly, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is a staple album for anyone in the throes of reaching adulthood. It is the 21st century version of Blonde on Blonde.
And just as Bob Dylan’s magnum opus had some lengthy ballads on it, Brand New extends past the four-minute song for “Limousine (MS Rebridge).” The middle track clocks in just under eight minutes. “Limousine (MS Rebridge)” is one of those songs that feels like a constant barrage of choruses. Its lyrical repetitions wash into and out of each other to create a soundscape of self-doubt and isolation.
While the album is certainly filled with melancholy and angst, there are moments of brightness that spark throughout the album. These points of light act to counterbalance the dark mire that makes the majority of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. This sense of counterbalance transforms the sadder parts of the album from mere self-pity to catharsis—one leads into and through the other, so to speak.
And one of those moments is in “The Archers’ Bows Have Broken.” The track became a sort of call to arms for all those dissatisfied with the administration of 2006-2007. Flitting between the national, debt LGBT equality, and hypocrisy, “The Archers’ Bows Have Broken” showed me that not only was I not alone in my anger at what was going on in politics—a feeling that is beginning to resurface. Plus, the song has one of my favorite lyrics of all time, “The God I believed in never worked on a campaign trail.”
The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is the album equivalent to required reading. Anyone who has ever felt an ounce of angst should give this record a spin. Whether it’s focusing lyrically on self-doubt, isolation, angst, political dissatisfaction, or all at the same time, or making the perfect sonic textures to strengthen these concepts, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me burns with an intensity that still bites even 10 years after its initial release.