The album opens with ‘Tautou’, a brief, sparse (yet kind of ethereal) intro, which is a good way to set the tone for what is to follow.
Future single ‘Sic Transit Gloria’ is all creeping, funky bass and guitar, and the antithesis of those Hip Hop/R n B songs that boast of the artist’s sexual prowess. Singer Jesse Lacey has written this from the point of view of the sexually inexperienced male, terrified of his impending coming of age moment with a more dominant woman, a nice reversal of the man as sexual predator stereotype.
Lyrically, Lacey at times calls to mind a less eloquent, American Morrissey (albeit without the sense of humour), with his biting cynicism of those around him. Nowhere is this more evident than on (the possibly Home Alone inspired) ‘Okay, I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t’, seemingly an ode to a former lover, during which he declares his band to ‘be the best at what we do’, and that ‘it hurts to be this good’. It’s not clear how seriously we should take these claims, though one suspects the band don’t believe their own hype this much. The line ‘I hope you come down with something they can’t diagnose, don’t have the cure for’ is one which sticks in the throat, and should mean something to anyone who’s suffered from a nasty relationship fall out.
One of the most touching moments comes on the less cynical, twisted love song of ‘The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot’, Lacey declaring his feelings for a former lover who he has wronged in some undisclosed way. Clearly full of regret, it is one of the few times on the LP that Lacey allows his mask of cynicism to slip to show he’s not a complete misanthrope.
Elsewhere, ‘Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis’ is reminiscent of the Foo Fighters’ ‘Tired Of You’ in its’ simplicity, whilst ‘Guernica’ is another example of the quiet verse/loud chorus formula which works so well throughout the LP, with an explosive shouty bit in the middle 8.
Closer ‘Play Crack The Sky’ is the only fully acoustic track on the album, and draws analogies between the end of a relationship and a sinking ship. The ending, with the coda ‘this is the end’ is sublime, and a great way to end one of the albums of 2003.
If there is any criticism to be made, then it can only be that sometimes Lacey has too much to say, trying to fit too many words into each line, so that on occasion songs sound cluttered. The listener can do nothing but focus on the lyrical content, around which most of the songs here seem to have been written. Whilst this is fine at present, it remains to be seen whether Lacey can find enough inspiration to keep up the standard set here over too many more albums.
(1) "Tautou" --> More of an intro than a real track. Kind of pretty ... It's neither bad nor really good so I tend to skip it. A decent warm-up though.
(2) "Sic Transit Gloria ... Glory Fades" --> A fantastic song, one of the fast tracks on the album. It's ultimately about a guy losing his virginity and not feeling quite ready, but you have to listen carefully to get that. It's surprisingly moving - the lyrics and chorus are great.
(3) "I Will Play My Game Beneath The Spin Light" --> This song is about homesickness and it's very moving. Slow-ish but catchy and with a good chorus. I love it, depressing as it is.
(4) "Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't" --> Yet another of my favourites. It's really beautiful, and has an eerie feel to it, but with quite bitter lyrics. Like most of these songs, it starts of slow but catchy, and speeds up with a catchy, powerful chorus. I'm not sure what it's about exactly, but it's great anyway ;-)
(5) "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows" --> Another fast song. This one is anthemic, addictive and impossible to tire of. Probably favourite ever BN track. It's very heart-wrenching, and you will love it instantly.
(6) "The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot" --> One of the real slowies, but beautiful. A really sincere song to a girl he's hurt. The lyrics seem so genuine and sad.
(7) "Jaws Theme Swimming" --> It took me a bit longer to get into this one for some reason. Maybe I just didn't give it a chance. I do love it now. It's catchy with good lyrics, and the verses have a really unusual, haunting sound.
(8) "Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis" --> I love this song so much. From what I gather, it's about a guy who picks up a girl but feels bad he's taking advantage of her. It's sad with beautiful lyrics and a consistently lovely tune. This one is definitely in the style of "The No Seatbelt Song" or "Soco Amaretto Lime". A Brand New classic.
(9) "Guernica" --> A fast song, angry as well as sad. It's about one of the member's grandfather having lung cancer, and all the emotions that come with that. It's extra moving when you know that background. It has a great chorus.
(10) "Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have To Do Is Die" --> Is there really any need for a 16-word title?! I think not. I love Brand New's long, abstract song names but this one is a bit much in my opinion. Anyway, it's a good song. Slow and sad with a good chorus. A brilliant listen (and a long one, at 7 minutes).
(11) "Play Crack The Sky" --> I agree with other reviewers that it's beautiful and moving, but this just isn't one of my favourites. I find it *too* sad, even by Brand New's standards. You really need to be in the right mood to hear it, or it'll make you cry! It's lovely but hasn't got the definite chorus the other songs have. Stunning vocals and lyrics - it's a metaphor about loving and losing someone.
A final point is that this should never be compared to Brand New's first record. If they'd been clever they would have changed their name as well as their style to try and push themselves as far from their pop punk past as possible. This is different music and technicaly a different band. I would honestly recommend everyone give this record a good listening to, each track has it's own special qualities and the entire CD simply reveals more with every listen...
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