Brand New’s ‘Deja Entendu’ album, 10 years later

The gap between Brand New’s first and second album should be measured not in years but in maturity. Somewhere between Your “Favorite Weapon” and “Deja Entendu,” Brand New graduated from pop punk to something more measured, thoughtful and deep. It’s been ten years since that sophomore effort was released (June 17, 2003) and while the band matured even more on latter efforts, “Deja Entendu” remains the hallmark of the band’s growth.

“Your Favorite Weapon,” was, on the surface, pure pop punk candy and so the band labeled with an emo pop tag, despite the fact that songs like “Soco Amaretto Lime” and “The No Seatbelt Song” had underlying tones that were anything but pop. Then came “Deja Entendu.” Fans who loved the band for songs like “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” found less of those ironic, pop-culture induced lyrics on their second album (and, later, none of it on The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me and Daisy). Instead they were greeted with songs that were complex and dark, both lyrically and musically. The band lost some fans but gained listeners who embraced the new style.

The progression of Brand New has been like watching a kid grow up; “Your Favorite Weapon” is a mere child having fun in a playground, “Deja Entendu” is a teenager’s angst filled notebook, Devil and God is a young adult yearning to know more about everything and their last effort, Daisy, saw the band as on the brink of being grown up, a little wiser but still on the verge of emotional breakdown. But aren’t we all? Daisy picked up so well where Devil and God left off that it’s not a follow up album as much as it is a segue. Of their four albums it’s “Deja Entendu” that stands out like a bookmark in their history, a place to keep going to back to when Devil and God and Daisy become too heavy; even though it lacks the pop sensibilities of “Favorite Weapon” it’s still something lighter despite its heaviness.

In the ten years since “Deja Entendu” was released, I’ve come to think of it as their first album. Not to dismiss “Favorite Weapon” entirely, but I listen to it so little it’s as if it doesn’t exist. I prefer the Brand New that was ushered in on the second album, the band that although still stuck on the quirky song naming convention, conveyed things beyond the scope of emotional angst as seen through the eyes of a wide eyed boy.

There’s death (“Guernica”), sex (Sic Transit Gloria), and alcohol (“Me v. Maradona v. Elvis)”, amidst sly nods to life in an emo band (”Ok I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t”) and an ode to life on the road (“I Will Play My Game Beneath The Spinlight”)And then there’s the capper – “Play Crack the Sky” – a seven minute seafaring metaphor for love, a tune that will break your heart if you let it.

Does “Deja Entendu” hold up after ten years? It does for what it is. If anything the album is a pit stop on the road to bigger (The Devil and God) and better (Daisy) places. But it’s a pit stop you keep coming back to time and time again and that’s enough of a legacy that warrants noting its anniversary for something other than making me feel old.