Rather than partake in the creative stagnation and general apathy that is common of young bands, Brand New took the ambitious and uncommon route on their sophomore album Deja Entendu, one in which they would grow both musically and lyrically. Their efforts would pay off, for Long Island’s Brand New successfully meld pop, punk, and emo to create a sound precisely their own, a style that promises to support the unyielding buzz that has surrounded this band since 2001’s Your Favorite Weapon. From beginning to end, Deja Entenducaptivates the listener with carefully layered guitars, perfectly complementary drumming, and lead vocalist Jesse Lacey’s powerful and honest lyrics.
The tone of Deja Entendu is set in the solemn opener “Tautou,” which fades into “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades,” a stellar track with bass driven verses and a thundering chorus made complete with emocore screams. “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” tells of the pressures and loneliness of the road while the fourth track “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” is destined to be quoted in the instant messenger profiles of bitter sad kids everywhere with lyrics like “I hope you come down with something they can’t diagnose/ And don’t have the cure for.” Lacey is not known for holding back at all in his lyrics.
First single “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” is vibrant and catchy with guitar slides and dueling vocals. The sixth track “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot” and “Me Vs. Maradona” are mellow, well-crafted songs that showcase the band’s ability to layer vocals, drumming, and guitars in the most effective and beautiful way. “Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have To Do Is Die” shows contrast between the quiet, haunting verses and the blaring chorus and arena-worthy breakdowns. On this track, Brand New show an understanding of the fact that when played skillfully, instruments can speak for themselves, a concept that many bands, who instead fill space with “na na na’s” or pointless repetition, could take the time to learn. The bouncing riffs of “Jaws Theme Swimming” and the power and sincerity of “Guernica” give the album the necessary alt-rock edge, and the acoustic “Play Crack the Sky” brings the album to a fittingly casual and emotional closure.
Deja Entendu, which means “heard it before” in French, is ironically one of the least derivative rock albums released in recent years. Brand New did not make an album to “break” the band, which is a common mistake amongst young acts eager to join the world of fame, riches, and groupies. The key to longevity is to grow as a band, make the best music possible to satisfy themselves and music fans, and not to force premature mainstream success. Brand New has done this, and as they continue to tour and produce albums, they will find themselves with a successful and well-earned career.
(Razor & Tie Records)
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.