The mixed emotions that arrived when I got my grubby little paws on this album were completely astounding.
I have loved Brand New since the tender age of 16, and their first long-player “Your Favorite Weapon” will always hold a very special place in my heart. However, having seen them play an (at best) mediocre set at Glastonbury earlier this year, I really didn’t set my hopes too high.
Opener “Vices” is absolutely inspired. There is a 1950’s female vocal which is tender, beautiful and melodic which then launches into a Jesse Lacey-onslaught of thrashing vocals and guitars. The actual arrival of this change made me jump, but it soon brought with it a certain element of excitement, and all I wanted was for this sheer delight to continue throughout the record. However, disappointment was just around the corner, and I’m devastated.
“At the Bottom” has certain elements of the Brand New I know and love in the form of a very strong chorus with vocal passion by the bucket-load, but quite frankly, that’s where it ends. The record drones somewhat and it’s almost an effort to get all the way through the album in its 11 track entirety, especially when a few tracks really do sound like they’ve been recorded in a garden shed in the middle of a war zone.
“You Stole” is dull; “Be Gone” is more pretentious than I can put words to, and “In a Jar” is plain bloody awful. “Sink” has moments of brilliance, but that’s precisely my problem - it’s just elements of greatness throughout an all-around disappointing album.
Having predecessors like “Deja Entendu” and “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” Brand New have set the standard pretty high, and after listening to this album 3 or 4 times, I genuinely wouldn’t recognise them for about 85% of this record. There’s pretention slapped all over it, and I honestly don’t know how to express my disappointment here.
If this album was by any other band, it would be ignored, and put to the back of the cupboard with a comment along the lines of “C+ - must try better next time”. However, because it’s Brand New, it’s a truly shattering blow, and they’re simply no longer the band I fell in love with 7 years ago. No doubt there will be rave reviews for such an “experimental” and “explorative” album from certain reviewers who are about as pretentious as some of the tracks on display here, but the bottom line is that this album is average at best, and Brand New’s worst effort in their 10 year history.