Your Favourite Weapon is the debut album by Brand New, an American band formed by Jesse Lacey, who after leaving a fledgling Taking Back Sunday amidst a falling out over his childhood friend John Nolan, with whom Jesse's girlfriend allegedly cheated.
The angst from this bitter split is the driving force of the album, as Lacey reels from the betrayal and seems to wonder who was at fault and if he can ever forgive those who wronged him.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the seminal pop-punk song 70x7 in which Lacey lays into Nolan with deadly intent, including a chilling breakdown in which he recounts the fateful words which ended their relationship.
Lyrically, most songs follow the template of pining for lost loves or anger at those who betrayed him, with the notable exception of album closer Soco Amaretto Lime, the most simplistic song on the album, as an acoustic guitar plays underneath the perfect words to describe the transition between adolesence and adulthood. Listening as someone who is at the same age and feels, as the song so beautifully portrays, the apprehension of facing adulthood and the wish for thing to remain as they are.
Musically, the album is competent with some variety in the form of a few acoustic numbers amidst the power chords associated with the genre (although the lead guitar melodies, certainly spice up the songs).
Your Favourite Weapon is a pop-punk album which revels in teenage angst and stands amongst the finest in the genre.
However, for Brand New, it was just the start, allowing them to 'clear their throats' before they got to work on their following albums, which, overall are superior.
While I touched briefly on the details of the band in my "Devil and God are raging inside me" review, I haven't gone into much detail, and thought, for their first album, maybe I should.
The band was formed in 2000, after Jesse Lacey and two of the other members finished with the band "The Rookie Lot". They then went in search for a second guitarist, before finding Vincent Accardi, who, after hearing the trio play "The Shower Scene". They then signed onto a record label, and released this album, promoting it through supporting bands like Incubus, Taking Back Sunday and Less than Jake.
Leading the band, writing most of the songs and of course, the singer, is Jesse Lacey. He first began playing music in his sophomore year, when his friend, John Nolan (former guitarist of Taking Back Sunday) persuaded him to begin playing the bass. He then went onto learning guitar, and for a short spell was in Taking Back Sunday, and played in the band "The Rookie Lot", with the future bassist and drummer of Brand New. He is known to be religious, and especially in "Devil and God...", religious references are frequently made. He is also good friends with Kevin Devine, an acoustic singer guy, who is also pretty awesome, and will be supporting Brand New this weekend.
Taking the lead guitar is Vincent Accardi, pounding the drums is Brian Lane, whilst taking the bass is Garrett Tierney and finally Derrick Sharman plays keyboards. To date the band have released 3 albums, and a couple of EP's. Their next album is due out this year.
== The Album ==
Whilst being released in 2001 over in their native USA, the album didn't make it across the Atlantic until 2003. I however, didn't hear it until last year. I was always a fan of "Deja Entendu", their second album, also released 2003, and after a suggestion, discovered "The Devil and God...", and it was then that I branched out, and have probably now listened to everything they have recorded, and they have pushed their way to my favourite current band.
'''The Shower Scene'''
A drum roll kicks us off, before a series of heavy chords are played, giving the song a really powerful strength behind it, the chorus piece sees the song breaking down a bit, the chords dissipating, and a few notes gently played in the background. The lyrics sound really distant as though they are going through some strange sort of distorting device, which gives the song a real grimy sound, especially when coupled with the guitars. Straight off, we have been given a song spewing punk passion and angst. At just over two minutes, it forms the shortest track on the album.
'''Jude Law and a Semester Abroad'''
The only single taken from the album, it opens straight in with some lyrics from Jesse, backed up by a distant but persistent beat from the drums, with constant clattering from the high-hat. The lyrics are much cleaner hear, but contain much more anger behind them, about as much as can possibly be contained without screaming. The drums are solid throughout, and the guitar is perfectly played, and fits the style of the song really well. It has a jolly, upbeat punk feel to it, which is completely contrasted with lyrics:
_And even if her plane crashes tonight_
_she'll find some way to disappoint me, _
_by not burning in the wreckage, _
_or drowning at the bottom of the sea_
_Jess, I still taste you, and thus reserve my right to hate you_
_And all this empty space that you create_
_does nothing for my flawless sense of style_
Clearly, the song is about a girl moving to England, and splitting up with him, and he is pretty pissed off about the whole situation. The chorus is really catchy, and I sincerely hope to see it live at the weekend.
'''Sudden Death in Carolina'''
Opening with a real modern punk riff, and smash on the drums which reminds me quite a bit of Blink-182, but better. It fades down to just a simple bass riff, laced over a quiet drum beat. Sharply sung and with an awesome guitar riff that is repeated throughout the song. It is one of my favourite tracks from the album, and has a real kick to it, the lyrics seem to speak of a relationship where they do nothing but hurt each other, but at the same time really care about one another, and it keeps up the teenagey feel which has engulfed the album thus far. The layering of vocals over some of the bridges is really effective, and works much better than an echo would do, in whole, the song is very well crafted.
Taking a slower start now, a small guitar riff lays at the back of Jesse's slow singing, which is still in completely different style to his slow singing in later albums. An echo of shouting the lyrics back comes in, and soon the overdriven guitar kicks in along with the drums and deep bass line. Another quite punky riff opens up as the song comes into it's own, but keeps the relatively slow pace of the opening, even though it later introduces the real angsty sound in the vocals. It's not too bad a song, but not something that I set out to listen to regularly. The lyrics feature a small tribute to Jesse Lacey's favourite band, The Smiths, when he sings: _"And I'm sick of your tattoos / And the way you always criticize the Smiths / And Morrissey"_
'''Failure by Design'''
Another great opening, although just a soft bit of guitar, it is really catchy and an awesome little riff which is kept going throughout the opening of the track. The overdriven chords come in, and the drums begin along with a juicy little bass line. The song boasts a strong punk feel to it again, with real energy in the chorus, but complete contrasting mellowness in the verses, another brilliantly crafted track. While the chorus I do really like, and think it is another track that I would love to see live, the rest is not really that great, and the end is really abrupt - it just ends.
'''Last Chance to Lose your Keys'''
Opening with yet another really punk sound to it, but sounding like the album is really beginning to mellow out for the second half. It has a nice little riff that runs throughout the whole track, and the chorus has a nice thud from the guitars. Drum wise, there isn't anything special, and I can barely detect a bass line through most of the song. In my view, it is not a great song, but acts as a nice little filler for the album, killing time before the last half, which I think is where their main talent lies. The end of the song sees a nice overlapping of multiple lyrics, which creates a really nice effect, but isn't enough to detract from the rest.
'''Logan to Government Centre'''
The only song from the album I had heard before I got it, since it was on an EP that I had. It opens with a cool riff, and the drum beat sets the pace of the song nicely, paving way for the verses to be lead with a neat little bass line. The lyrics are sang really well, and the angstyness is back for the start of the choruses. It never fails to get my head nodding along with the beat, and is a really catchy track. That being said, it isn't awesome by any definition, and, as you might notice, I am actually finding it hard to describe properly. That's the problem with a track you neither love nor hate, there just isn't much to be said.
'''The No Seatbelt Song'''
Here, we see a small glimpse of what is to come on future albums. It is a slow and mellow track, and Jesse's voice is just over a whisper, hardly audible over some feedback which echoes over the song. The guitars are gentle, none of the overdrive from previous tracks, it is just a clean riff - no drums, no bass. The most there is, is the late addition of an acoustic guitar to provide some chords. Jesse's voice picks up, and has a sound of depression to it, a desperate sound as though the words are hard to sing as he releases _"But how could I miscalculate, perfect eyes will have perfect aim, If I can choose its only you "_. After that, a small increase in the volume begins, there is a strum from some muted guitars, and distant singing, before returning to a more solid version of the previous pieces, a bass line and drum beat, both gentle so as not to detract from a great song, has been introduced, and the tuned feedback returns to add a strange eeriness to the song. Fading out, leaving just the feedback as it disappears...
'''Seventy Times Seven'''
My favourite song from the album and the punk is back with the best riff from the whole CD. The riff squeals across a background of overdriven chords and a deep bass line, the drums beat in the back. The lyrics are sang solidly, with a real punk-like sound to them. This song has so many great elements to it, from the awesome riff, the great chorus, the shouts in response to some lyrics, and later an awesome breakdown piece. It is a song wrought of anger and is all about the feud between Jesse and John Nolan from TBS, I don't know the whole story, but it was something like Jesse's girlfriend cheated on him with his best friend, John. I think TBS also wrote a song in retaliation. The second half of this song is just epic, it has screams and shouts, and some of the best angry lyrics I have heard, short of Shellacs "Prayer to God".
_So is that what you call a getaway? _
_Tell me what you got away with_
_'cause I've seen more spine in jellyfish_
_I've seen more guts in eleven-year-old kids_
_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_
The title, is a reference to a story in the bible, where Peter says "Lord, if another member of this church sins against me, how oft should I forgive? As many as seven times", to which Jebus replies "Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy times seven times". Jesse's reference to the bible are more pronounced later in his career, and it just shows how great lyricist he is, fitting so many elements into a song like this.
Another great riff opens this song, and it is an excellent upbeat punk track. The layering of overdriven guitars and chords and riffs beneath it makes for excellent listening, and the drums keep the pace of the song flowing quickly. Jesse's vocals are perfect, adding yet another dimension to the song. Between verses, a sweet riff is played a few times, and it is really catchy, perfectly upbeat, while the lyrics over it, are not quite so, speaking of a breakup or something. The main lyrics and riffs are repeated a couple of times in the song, just to really set the message across, and it forms another of my favourite tracks from the album. It just contains so many great elements, that you can't help but love it.
Thudding in with a smashing of the guitar combined with Jesse's flawless vocals. It keeps a strong pace through mixing frequent clattering from the guitar with slight gaps for the verses. The choruses keep a strong beat going, and have a sweet riff laced in the background, which would be better if it was slightly louder rather than imbedded deep under the bass and drums. Yet again, a great mix of different riffs, chords and vocal styles keeps the song fresh and flowing. Reading into the lyrics, it actually has no deep meaning to it, and is about a model in Victoria Secrets, Laetitia Casta, who personally, I don't think is particually hot, but seems to be Jesse's cup of tea. It is a really catchy track, and acts as a great penultimate piece, leading to what is my second favourite song from the album...
'''Soco Amaretto Lime'''
For the second time, but much better this time, they demonstrate some of what is coming up in "Deja Entendu". This is a beautifully slow acoustic piece. Opening just with the guitar chords being gently strummed and Jesse slowly singing over the top, and a barely audible echo. The lyrics are plain and simple to understand. It's about not wanting to grow up, not wanting to have to let things change, but the realisation that things already are, and you're getting older anyway. There isn't a glimmer of anything but Jesse and his guitar on the whole song, and it is truly awesome.
_I'm gunna stay eighteen forever _
_So we can stay like this forever_
_And we'll never miss a party _
_cause we keep them going constantly_
_And we'll never have to listen_
_to anyone about anything _
_cause it's all been done and it's all been said_
_We're the coolest kids and we take what we can get_
It is completely different feel to the entirety of the rest of the tracks, and is so much more like how Brand New evolved to be in their next album.
== "This is a lesson in procrastination..." ==
The Brand New that I first knew, had created "Deja Entendu", an album filled with emotion and eloquent lyrics, containing an assortment of tracks which have been attributed to the emo scene. The Brand New I fell in love with created "The Devil and God are Raging inside me", an album filled with even more emotion, with screams bangs and explosions. Filled with anger, but speaking with an air of experience at the same time. Then, I listened to this, and it is a completely different band.
And that is excellent.
Some bands will find a sound that works, they will find the words, the feelings and all that jazz that draws them a scene. They release their first album, and then spend the rest of their careers trying to beat it, whilst gradually falling further and further down the charts. Some bands, will constantly evolve their sound, making subtle changes, but while keeping their basic sound the same, The Manic Street Preachers for example - you can easily compare a song from "Generation Terrorists" and "Send away the Tigers", and you could draw a million comparisons, even though the overall sound is different.
But then there is the epic bands. The bands that can change their whole sound and keep incredible. Pink Floyd did it - no two albums are the same in anyway, with the exception of genius lyrics and a great sound. That is Brand New too.
OK, maybe comparing Brand New to Pink Floyd is going a little to far. For starters, Brand New are too select a sound, and I don't know many people who like them, or at least have heard of them, and so the likelihood of them becoming a timeless band that will be inspiring bands for the next 40 years is unfortunately unlikely. But they have kept fresh with every production thus far. Their three albums have such different sounds, and the band themselves have said they are not the same since the first album, and that it really doesn't reflect who they are today. And, from listening to a few of the live performances of new songs, their next album is set to be even better (if that is humanly possible) than their last.
"Your Favourite Weapon" is really hard to surmise. I cannot possibly compare it to their other albums; since it is not the same sound at all, all I can say is I prefer how they evolved. So, I have to treat the album as though it is something by a completely different group.
It contains a great selection of punk tracks, which features lyrics that are full of angst and anger. Songs about love, betrayal, and masturbating other a magazine model, are produced in a very teenage style, which is I suppose, just what punk tracks are made for. As with any album, there are real highlights, "Seventy Times Seven" is a incredible track, featuring lyrics that would be more than worthy to feature on Brand New's latter albums, but if they had, the feel of them being sang would be dramatically different, and rather than sounding like a solid "f**k you", it would have come across dark and even angrier. "Sudden Death in Carolina", "Secondary" and "Magazine" are just great punk tracks, with real feel good rhythm to them, and keep the album standing up on its feet. There are a couple of tracks I think could have benefitted from more work, "Mix Tape", is a pretty mixed song, and a couple of the other tracks just pass me by, without me paying huge attention to them.
"Soco Amaretto Lime" is another highlight to the album, and indicates the way the band were heading, both musically and lyrically, and was for sometime a favourite track of mine.
'''Do I recommend this album''' - well for anyone who is a fan of Brand New, they will have listened to this album, and I expect loved it, despite it being such a different sound to the group today. If you are thinking of trying some Brand New out, then read my reviews on "Devil and God.." and "Deja Entendu", as they are the albums I would suggest you start on. So I recommend it, but not as your entrance to the group. VERDICT - Yes
'''Originality''' - I think it is safe to say, that Brand New is always completely original. While there may be aspects of other sounds in their, like I said in the track-by-track review, it isn't the same sound in anyway as other groups that produce the punk sort of music, although there are elements of it, so I can't say is groundbreaking. But, in my view better so - VERDICT - Definitely a cut above the rest
'''Lyrics''' - Some songs, contain awesome lyrics, "Seventy Times Seven" being the epitome of this, and I would say that that song is "sublime". But other tracks, whilst consisting of certainly well written verse and great lyrics, they are just not in the same league as the band later went on to be, so would feel a bit cheeky giving it anything better than "Thought Provoking". VERDICT - Thought Provoking
'''Quality and Consistency of Tracks''' - Nope, not flawless, like I said, a few weaker ones, but I wouldn't say that is mixed. If an album is mixed, it has to contain tracks which I sincerely think are shit, but coupled with awesomeness. VERDICT - A few weak links
'''How does it compare with artist's other releases''' - It doesn't. Like I said, it is seriously wrong to compare this album to anything they have ever done. It is a completely different sound. But it would be wrong to say Outstanding, since that is misleading. If I did have to look at it as a learning stage or whatever for the group, then, no it isn't as good as their other albums, but it isn't just average, its just, different. VERDICT - Good
'''Value for Money''' - It's Brand New - it can be nothing but Excellent. VERDICT - Excellent.
'''How does it rate alongside the Competition''' - Well, I suppose, for the genre of music it is, it's competition is what? Blink-182, Greenday and the like. Hand's down, in my view, I would listen to Brand New over them any day. Although, for example, there are Greenday songs I prefer over songs on this album, as there are Blink songs, so, I suppose it can't be outstanding. VERDICT - Good
'''Covers and Bits''' - Would anyone really not buy an album just because the inlay was a tad shite? I think not. But, nonetheless, it is fine so. VERDICT - Good
You can get it for £6.99 from www.hmv.co.uk, or if you scoot over to play.com, then you can get the Dual CD of Deja Entendu and this album for just a fiver.
Since the release of 'Your Favourite Weapon', Brand New as a band have matured hugely, both as people and musically. Although this album was the catalyst for the future success of Brand New, to imagine them releasing a similar album now is unthinkable.
'Your Favourite Weapon' is styled in the favour of pop-punk compared to the type of progressive rock that Brand New play now. Opening with 'The Shower Scene', Jesse Lacey's distorted vocals hold the angst associated with younger bands (which they were at the time) towards members of the opposite sex. It is a great opening track, creating the sound of a band brimming with overflowing energy and emotion to expel.
'Jude Law and a Semester Abroad' was the only single released from the album and experienced some airtime through mainstream channels. Producing one of the first insights into the multi-vocal talent of Jesse Lacey, the ending to 'Jude Law' intertwines several different vocal-lined layers to give Brand New their sound to separate them from the crowd.
Even at this early stage, there was a sign of things to come for Brand New, with tracks such as 'The No Seatbelt Song' and 'Soco Amaretto Lime' containing the kind of depth that is found in many of their songs to date. The release of this debut album provided evidence that Jesse Lacey was a talented individual (along with the other three members of the band), with the ability to lure people in with his confident manipulation of words to distort them into more meaningful structures and expressions.
There are some tracks that create a bit of filler on the album, mainly in the shape of 'Magazines' and 'Last Chance to Lose Your Keys'. It is not necessarily that they are terrible songs in any way, but they don't particularly demand attention as other songs do. Surprisingly, the latter is let down with its lyrical content at times. 'Its girls like you that make me think I'm better off home on a Saturday night with all my doors locked up tight. I won't be thinking about you baby' is extremely teen-sounding, which is the case as many songs were written around this stage of the band's career. Although it fit with the pop-punk lyrical content and context, it is not something you would associate with Brand New. But in hindsight, its very easy to judge an album that was written around eight years ago.
In terms of popularity, 'Seventy Times 7' was given the most praise by fans due to its lyrical angst again at the frustration of a relationship/friendship gone wrong. After seeing the lyrics plastered all over message boards and MySpace pages, the song has somewhat lost its charm. The music itself isn't the best either; opening with a weak-sounding lead guitar riff the song doesn't set off on the best foot. It is saved by the middle section in which some aspects of the newer Brand New are heard with effect-based clean riffs and a more mature sounding Lacey voicing the now well-worn lyrics.
'Your Favourite Weapon' was a good start to the career of Brand New, as the genre and lyrical content were somewhat fitting within the so-called "emo" scene of the early part of the decade. Along with their fans of this period, Brand New have progressed to become the band that they are now. For people wishing to see how the band started out and to see how far they have come, this is a great starter though. Probably under-appreciated now, it was a stand-out album of the period within its genre and has allowed the band to continue and progress along their own path.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Shower Scene
2 Jude Law and a Semester Abroad
3 Sudden Death in Carolina
4 Mix Tape
5 Failure by Design
6 Last Chance to Lose Your Keys
7 Logan to Government Center
8 No Seatbelt Song
9 Seventy Times 7
12 Soco Amaretto Lime