Massachusetts Daily Collegian

2003 Music Retrospective Part 2: Brand New matches their sound to their name

By Alexa Hoyle

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To say that 2003 was an incredible year for music would be an understatement. It was a time when artists were doing things so innovative that it completely changed the music scene. It has now been a decade since some incredible albums were released, so what better time to think introspectively about their influence than now? More importantly – why are these albums so important to begin with?

Brand New’s 2003 effort, Deja Entendu, is unlike 90% of albums I’ve heard before. So maybe naming the album Deja Entendu, translating to “already heard” in French, is a bit satirical on their part. The album punctuated the complete upheaval of the pop-punk sound the band had prided themselves on with their debut. Instead of songs about breaking up with a girl for example, there is more depth – and a hell of a lot more maturity. They did what Blink 182 did with their untitled album; Brand New just did it sooner in their career.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There is a reason why Brand New is one of the most revered by fans of that realm of music, and that reason is this album. Deja Entendu proved that the band wasn’t a one-trick pony and that there was a lot more substance to them, lyrically and musically, than their debut had shown. The band was determined not be pigeonholed into a pop-punk style so they made a complex, well put together, and haunting album.

Jesse Lacey’s vocals aren’t that of a angst ridden teen’s screaming into microphones anymore – they vary from even, leveled tones on “Okay I Believed You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” to angry and passionate screams on “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades.” Lacey’s vocal style will continue to evolve in the band’s next few releases, including almost hushed vocals on half of Daisy, but this is the album where they really started to develop as something special.

But one of the main draws of this album, and something that has secured its lasting power, is the incredible lyrical prowess Lacey exhibits. Their debut, Your Favorite Weapon, is well written, but also laden with clichés. This time around, Lacey proves himself to be one of the most skilled songwriters of this generation. This is never more apparent than on one of their most celebrated songs, “The Boy Who Blocks His Own Shot.” In the song Jesse writes,

You are calm and reposed, let your beauty unfold
Pale white, like the skin stretched over your bones
Spring keeps you ever close
You are second-hand smoke
You are so fragile and thin, standing trial for your sins
Holding on to yourself the best you can
You are the smell before rain, you are the blood in my veins

Sometimes such a leap in sound can be alienating to fans, but Brand New didn’t do that (although they would go on to later with Daisy). The album is incredibly well put together and produced, but it’s still rough enough around the edges to be the band so many had already come to love. This was the first album I heard from the band, and I instantly fell in love. I had never heard anything like it; I didn’t know music could do this. The album, and the band, changed my musical tastes entirely. I learned there was more than what was on the radio, and it really was the beginning to it all. So I guess if I can blame anyone for my obsession with music, I can blame Brand New.

All these years later, the album still feels as fresh as the first time I heard it, and I know that is true for many others. It’s hard to find an album as dynamic as this one in every realm; the lyrics are poignant, the vocals are varying and never stale, and the instrumentation is raw and a little experimental. Just like Blink 182 with the Untitled album, the band took a leap of faith, and it paid off. Maybe that’s why so many of the great albums released in 2003 are still important today: the bands refused to play it safe.

Alexa Hoyle can be reached at [email protected]

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