Been thinking a lot lately about a couple of “big picture” “thinkpieces,” aka shoot me before I finish this sentence, please.
Cringeworthyness aside, in addition to persistent writer’s block, decreasing enthusiasm and drive, and an overwhelming feeling of malaise as 2013 draws to a close, my internship with NPR’s All Songs Considered combined with this year’s project has stirred a crippling one-two punch of broad spectrum narratives: the duo of musical elitism and the concept of there being just… too much music out there.
These two crushing thoughts are brought to you by today’s perfect album of the century of the week: Brand New’s third studio album, 2006’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.
In the first month of this project, I wrote that, as a music listener, you should like what you want to like, because, in so many words, fuck everyone else.
But since arriving here in Washington, D.C., two things have been made apparent to me:
1). There is a certain level of musical elitism that exists even above the one that I myself propagate one that I was almost wholly unaware of prior to arriving. Actually, take two: I knew it existed, but I had never been exposed to said elitism.
Sub-point 1a). They all mean well, I assure you.
Sub-point 1b). In meaning well, they tend to ignore entire swaths of music in a way that eliminates sub-genres.
Sub-point 1c). Just so happens to be some of my favorite sub genres (looking at you, post-hardcore and angry but chameleon-rock like Brand New and Cursive).
2). There is a whole hell out of a lot of music out there.
Sub-point 2a). Too much.
Sub-points 2b-2z). There is too much music out there.
I’ve now faced this mini-crisis of having to write about my all-time favorite records and not having anything important to add to the conversation. It happened with The Blood Brothers’ …Burn, Piano Island, Burn!, then again with GAYNGS’ Relayted, and even just yesterday with Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come.
Should the point even be to add something meaningful to the dialogue of why they are my favorite records?
Or should the point be to take a step back and objectively say, “I waded through a swamp – yea, a veritable bog of slop to get to the goods – and here they are.”
I’m still figuring that out, especially for albums like the aforementioned trio, and today’s as well.
To me, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me is a perfect and flawless album, from cover-to-cover. It was released at a formative moment for me: barely out of high school, in school part time and working full-time and unhappy all of the time. Just kidding (about the part time thing, man, I’ll be in school 4e).
How does one even begin to explain why their favorite albums are important to them, for someone looking to find out about the band, if those bands are as popular as I think Refused, Brand New, The Blood Brothers, or even GAYNGS are?
It’s a reminder that, though I’ve been inundated by these groups for the last decade-plus – or in the case of Refused, 15+ years now – that there are people out there that have never heard of the lot. It’s an eye-opener, still.
So what qualities does an album like The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me possess that merits its inclusion on my (hopefully, Insha’Allah) hypothetical desert island list?
A slew of aggression, heavy on jams, a generous dose of feedback, some pensive if immature lyrics… but more importantly, a strong emotional grab based on when it was released.
Isn’t that the binding thread? People like albums of all sorts, genres, decades, influences. But more than that, it’s the emotional crosstie of when that record happened in that person’s life.
To circle back to the original thoughts:
1) No matter what anybody tells you, like what you want to like. Just because there are people out there who listen to music from bands or artists you’ve never heard of doesn’t discount your appreciation for a band as relatively massive as Brand New.
2) Try not to feel overwhelmed by the fact that there is so, so much new music out there. If all you want to do is listen to, I don’t know, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, on repeat for the rest of eternity, by god, do it. Musical FOMO is breaking my balls this year, but it doesn’t matter. Listen to what you want to listen to, and don’t let anyone shame you for what you like.