11 years later: Brand New’s Deja Entendu

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Brand New – Deja Entendu (2003, Triple Crown)

Last year, I briefly celebrated the anniversary of Brand New‘s Deja Entendu.  When I looked back at my spotlight of that album, I realized a lot of things were missing.  Of course I mentioned how the album was a strong follow-up to Your Favorite Weapon.  I described how the album was a mature departure from the pop-punk sound of YFW and how the dual vocals were as strong as ever.  But there is much more to be said about this album who’s title comes from the feeling of hearing something before.

Deja Entendu opens with a short track called “Tautou,” named after actress Audrey Tautou. From the moment this song is cued up, one can tell that this record is completely different from Brand New’s previous work.  Jesse Lacey sings one line over and over again. That one line,I’m sinking like a stone in the sea. I’m burning like a bridge for your body,” sets the mood for the entire album.  

The album isn’t a complete departure from what fans love about Brand New. Some songs are in line with Brand New’s previous work, both lyrically and musically. “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” and “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” are two of these such songs.

“Quiet Things” had a screaming-match chorus and has both loud and quiet portions.  The guitars screech and there is a lot of opportunity to sing along.

“Beneath the Spin Light” had the great lyric of If looks could really kill, then my profession would be staring.” With this lyric, the band exclaims their own cocksure attitude. It was almost like they knew how good it all was.  This song transitions into “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” and the great, semi-sarcastic lyric “I’m heaven-sent/ Don’t you dare forget.”

There was a lot of confidence expressed on the album. But in typical early 2000s fashion, other songs are about the exact opposite.

“Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” is a song that addresses feel empty and bothered. It had a memorable video that plays like a surreal thriller. There is heavy breathing in the background and instructional lyrics “Keep the noise low/ she doesn’t want to blow it.”  The band is describing the sort of alcohol-fueled evening characteristic of one’s early adult years.  It is so very dark but so very relatable.  There is an undertone of fending off unwanted sexual advances and the consequences of that. “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis” has very similar themes. As Jesse whispers the words I’ve got desperate desires and unadmirable plans/ My tongue will taste of gin and malicious intent” it is easy to imagine an evil half-grin on his face. 

There are points of the album where sadness takes over.  The last track, “Play Crack The Sky,” is incredibly depressing with the extended metaphor of an ocean to describe weakness. “Guernica,” named after the Pablo Picasso painting, is about mourning the death of a loved one.  “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot” is another somber song about not measuring up but always yearning for acceptance. In that song, all the protagonist wants to do is please his loved one.  He even offers to move to another state and leave.  “Good to Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have to Do Is Die” pretty much says it all right there in the title.

With Deja Entendu, Brand New’s sound developed into a dark band with dark lyrics and even darker melodies.   The emotions are all over the spectrum, for brash confidence to sensitive vulnerability.  In my opinion, it is their strongest album to date. It is the moment when they proved they are not just another one-note pop-punk.  Instead, they are band with the ability to paint a morose picture with their dark words and engage just about everyone.

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