There are few albums that can wholly encapsulate the melancholy nature of teenage angst without venturing into corny pop punk territory. I’ve previously explored Take Off Your Pants And Jacket by Blink-182 as they provided a unique unison of cringe worthy comedy and serious sentiments.
However, Deja Entendu by Brand New is a brooding, depressing and captivating journey through a range of emotions; an album which has established itself as a cult classic among pop punk purists (or hipsters, whatever you’d prefer to call them). The record jumps effortlessly through the emotions that can so very easily litter a teenage mind; inadequacy, resentment, and an overwhelming sense of failure.
I’ll be the first to admit that I glazed over this album in its entirety for years, oblivious to the profound impact that it would have on me immediately after my first front-to-back listen. It would be extremely difficult for me to pinpoint a more honest, introspective and raw collection of songs, one that I sadly find myself relating to more than I would like to acknowledge.
“I am heaven sent, don’t you dare forget. I am all you’ve ever wanted, what all the other boys all promised.”
Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t is a chilling track which delves deep into personal insecurities, as what begins with a less than modest statement quickly turns into an exposition of weakness and confusion. The egotistical opening is merely a front for the raft of issues that flow freely through the remaining verses.
“I think in decimals and dollars, I am the cause to all your problems.”
“Co-ordinate brain and mouth, then ask me what it’s like to have myself so figured out. I wish I knew.”
I quickly fell in love with the sheer brilliance of the band’s lyricism, and was blown away at the ability of their words to so perfectly represent my own emotions, even those that lay at the darkest corners of my mind.
“This is the grace only we can bestow,
This is the price you pay for loss of control,
This is the break in the bend,
This is the closest of calls,
This is the reason you’re alone,
This is the rise and the fall.”
I have a love affair with words, and this album was significantly influential in shaping that passion. There’s just something so piercing and personal about the written form of expression, and when these introspective insights are coupled with music the impact is even more profound.
The music behind Deja Entendu is just as captivating as the words that accompany it. The dark and distorted bass behind Sic Transit Gloria … Glory Fades creates a gloomy and depressing atmosphere before exploding into a fast paced furor of guitars and drums. Play Crack The Sky proves to be the polar opposite, but speaks to the musical flexibility of the band, as they close out the album with a gorgeous yet haunting acoustic track. Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis is a slow and steady build up into overwhelmingly piercing vocals, while the upbeat drums that accompany Guernica provide one of the more energetic moments on an album that is quite content to flow through emotions at a slow and sombre pace.
The song which resonates with me the most however, is The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot; a gut-wrenching and fascinating retelling of a degrading relationship.
The subtle squeak of the guitar strings conjures up my own feelings of helplessness, as I’ve struggled to deal with relationship breakdowns and heartache. While I’ve often put up walls and acted stoically in the face of these moments, deep down I’ve failed to deal with my demons and often end up in a self-deprecating cycle of blame and regret. Was I the reason that this relationship ended? Is my personality toxic? What could I have done differently?
“If it makes you less sad, I will die by your hand,
I hope you find out what you want
I already know what I am.”
“And if it makes you less sad, we’ll start talking again,
You can tell me how vile, I already know that I am.”
The narrator behind this song is well aware of how he has hurt his partner, and discusses the possibility of ending the relationship, and his willingness to remove himself from all facets of her life.
“And if it makes you less sad, I’ll take your pictures all down
Every picture you paint, I will paint myself out”
What transpires throughout the song was an eye opening moment for me, as I realised just how brutal, yet beautiful a song can be, if all the pieces happen to fall in the right place. The narrator slowly begins to blame his partner for the hurt he has caused her, twisting and manipulating the conversation to hide his own inadequacies.
“It’s cold as a tomb, and it’s dark in your room
When I sneak to your bed to pour salt in your wounds
So call it quits or get a grip
Say you wanted a solution
You just wanted to be missed”
At the end of the day, it is revealed that the narrator has blocked his own shot; and subsequently blocked his own chance to be with someone who truly cares for him, as he fails to take full responsibility for the breakdown.
Deja Entendu is an album which has withstood the test of time, and although pop punk has seemingly morphed into a rousing and upbeat genre that has crept closer and closer towards mainstream appeal, this is an album of the highest lyrical calibre, that never ceases to amaze upon revisiting.
With every acoustic strum or booming bassline I am transported into a world of pure emotion; emotion in its rawest form.