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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Brand New: Deja Entendu

BRAND NEW: DEJA ENTENDU (2003)

1) Tautou; 2) Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades; 3) I Will Play My Game Beneath The Spin Light; 4) Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't; 5) The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows; 6) The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot; 7) Jaws Theme Swimming; 8) Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis; 9) Guernica; 10) Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have To Do Is Die; 11) Play Crack The Sky.

Already these guys are getting more serious, and I am not sure if they deserve such an enthusias­tic pat on the back for this as they did. Yes, it is hard not to notice that on their second album, Brand New have moved way, way beyond writing about break-ups and are now writing about... well, about whatever they might have caught on TV the day before going into the studio, be it an Audrey Tautou movie or a Wes Anderson movie or a documentary about the shipwreck of the FV Pelican way back in 1951 — all of these subjects and more get faithfully covered on the record, and this, I guess, makes it more mature and makes their «emo» more substantial.

Unfortunately, the songwriting does not get improved all by itself just because the covered topics get more serious (or do they?). The lead single was ʽThe Quiet Things That No One Ever Knowsʼ, a song about strained relationships (maybe; if you're not sure what any song is about, write «strained relationships» and you have a 70% probability of getting it right) with lots of metapho­rical hospitals-and-blood imagery (and an appropriate video) but also with a very generic alt-rock melody that mostly rests either on power chords or on metronomically chugging guitars — and plenty of screaming, of course (not very quiet). I guess it is still much better than the average generic emo song — this one at least seems meticulously thought over — but no pop genius is in evidence, and the chorus just sucks.

The second single was ʽSic Transit Gloria...ʼ, and it at least has a cool-walking bassline that might remind you of ʽThe Guns Of Brixtonʼ, but the screamy chorus still ends up ruining it. Again I have no idea what the lyrics are about (seems to be at least partially about sex, which covers the 29,99% ground of the remaining probabilities), but I totally feel that the verses, where the vocals are «side-tracked» to the left and to the right of the cool-walking bassline and set up at least some sort of tense mood, deserve a much better, or at least more subtle chorus. As it is, it is hard to get moved when they start raving without any visible reasons whatsoever.

Amazingly, the best song on the album is also its longest — with this predictable formula of hookless guitar pop and meaningless screaming so firmly in place, you wouldn't think that Brand New could be at their best when trying to craft a lengthy epic, but they are: ʽGood To Know That If I Ever Need Attention, All I Have To Do Is Dieʼ is not only a funny title, but it also has a loud power pop rather than «screamo» chorus, and a couple of lengthy instrumental passages where Vincent Accardi shows off some nice chops (as well as a ʽHotel Californiaʼ fetish). I feel like most reviewers give up way before the end, so the song rarely, if ever, gets a mention, but it is the most interesting composition on this tiresome record — certainly better than whenever they break out the acoustic guitars and begin to sound like R.E.M. on speed (ʽPlay Crack The Skyʼ).

I know it's just the regular emo formula and all, but the music here is largely generic, and so is Jesse's singing — even with a formula in place, one could hope for more involving guitar riffs or catchier choruses. As it is, I doubt that Déjà Entendu, although it achieved some commercial success and got all those positive reviews, will ever get past the original adoration of those young adolescents with which these songs resonated in 2003, just because those guys were young and fresh as well. I find this record just as devoid of musical interest as its predecessor, but more pretentious, so a thumbs down is the proper way to go about this.

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