What is the proper way to approach an album such as Simple Mind’s re-imagined vision of Brand New’s fabled The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me? Ever since the first few tracks from this new artist’s vision began leaking out, people have been, to some degree, pondering this question. Fans of this album have an incredible amount of history and reverence for this record, setting aside those feelings is no short order. Fully appreciating what Simple Mind has accomplished here, however, is something that all Brand New fans should do, whether they agree with this interpretation or not.
A strange and wonderful thing might just happen for people who are able to set aside their understandable bias. They may just be transported to the incredible world that Simple Mind has conjured up in his head. This world was created as his love song to a band, and album, that so many people hold in high regard. (Sometimes to an unhealthy degree.) In this world, everything you remember is in its right place, only more bizarre and dream like. ‘Sowing Season (Yeah)’ opens the album with Simple Mind’s modulated, and somber, vocals. It continues on as more texture, synth, and drum machines are added into the mix, culminating in haunting, desperate, screams. ‘Millstone’ follows and the intro is very reminiscent of a The XX song.
Simple Mind really poured himself into the production behind this album. There exists a staggering amount of texture in each song that breathes new life and meaning into very familiar tracks; whether it’s found in the reverent keys of ‘Jesus’, or in the devastating violin bridge on ‘Limousine’. This album demands listening with proper headphones equipped.
There are times, however, when Simple Mind should have taken more of a risk. This may be slightly controversial, but ‘Jesus’ is the weakest track on The Devil and God proper. Simple Mind had an opportunity to mold, at this point, a very overplayed song into something new and exciting, but instead kept it relatively low key. In a similar vein, ‘Handcuffs’ could have been given a more aggressive treatment as well. They both play it relatively safe and quiet with limited use of synth and effects, but of course these are both inherently quiet songs and straying too far from that structure is likely a creative challenge.
This entire review could have possibly been summed up in a paragraph, though, due entirely to Simple Mind’s transcendent interpretation of ‘Limousine’. Arguably, one of both albums’ cornerstones, Simple Mind crafts a masterful, and disarmingly haunting take on the song. Everything that is great about this album is found here: confident vocals, bombastic drums, dizzying synth effects, beautiful keys, and a very smart use of violin. Replacing Jesse Lacey’s repeated bridge with a violin was an incredibly smart choice, both practically and artistically. People familiar with the original song will know exactly what is being sung here, making it all the more powerful and rising as the strings soar to an intense, crippling, crescendo.
The greatest disservice that could be had with this album is for people to be dismissive of it, and it would be easy to do so. Brand New fans are a very passionate, loyal, and dedicated group of people; meddling with any of the bands work is often considered sacrilege. To dismiss it, though, would be to misunderstand the album for what it was and represents; a passionate tribute to a seminal piece of work. Save for a few songs where the boundaries could have been stretched further, this is a fantastic, and interesting, entry into a young artists catalog.
The Devil And God Are Raging Beside Me will be streamed later today