The much-loved 2006 record, just not quite as you remember it…
Okay, I’ll own it: I am very late to the game on this one.
Originally released back in early March of 2015 and later uploaded to Bandcamp on November 21st of the following year (unintentionally on the ten year anniversary of the original record), ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Beside Me‘ is a captivating, synth-laden, soothing and at times noisy electro-pop take on the Brand New’s classic LP, ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me‘. And it was all created by one man, the mysterious U.S. artist, Simple Mind.
One of the few, if indeed the only interview that Simple Mind has ever conducted was with On Record Magazine back in 2015, after word first spread of his Brand New-related project. As to the ‘why’ behind this major undertaking, Simple Mind stated that:
“In December of 2013, I caught Brand New for one of their discography shows, as well as their Bell House show in Brooklyn. That show went down in their fanbases’ eyes as one of the best Brand New shows of all time. It was an incredible experience for me as well and I realized that this band was pretty much in my musical DNA. I wanted to delve into their songs and put myself into them, because I felt like they were all a part of me. I also just love the Brand New community and this project is very obviously catered to them.“
[Simple Mind also stated in said interview that if he ever approached recreating another record, he said it’d be MGMT’s ‘Congratulations‘. Oh god, if only].
Recorded at the anonymous artists own home – more specifically, via his bedroom and walk-in closet – this cover-meets-reimagined record keeps the original’s lyrics, tracklisting, length and overall intent intact. As for the music? Well, it’s anything but alternative rock. The record was constructed using both analogue and digital synths, vocoder effects, programmed percussion, very occasional guitars, virtual strings and pianos, widescreen FX, pitch-shifted vocals, with all instruments and vocals recorded, performed and/or programmed by Simple Mind. (With the sole exception of the violinist on track five – ‘Limousine’ – who is Josh Knowles, the violinist and vocalist for a cool rock band called Nemes that you should totally check out).
Despite the instrumental transposing and sonic differences of Simple Mind’s version,’The Devil And God Are Raging Beside Me‘ melodically and tonally captures the timbre, emotion and original heart of Brand New’s much-lauded third record. Just with Simple Mind’s electronic flavour layered within, over, under and around the original’s foundation.
Where you may have first heard guitars, you’ll now hear a variety of synths, strings or pianos or all of the above, and when guitars are present (the solo in ‘You Won’t Know‘, the lead in ‘Sowing Season‘ or the acoustic guitar presence in ‘Handcuffs‘ above newly included churning synths), it’s a note for note representation. Where the bass guitar once stood now stands cinematic, hi-fi subs and synth basses. Where you once heard a real drum kit being driven along by drummer Brian Lane, you’ll now hear a variety of programmed drum beats instead; keeping time in their own way. And this isn’t counting the ad-lib moments of ambience and atmospherics that have been thrown into these compositions for good measure either.
The man behind this stellar creation also closely matches the singing and screaming dynamics of frontman Jesse Lacey in tone, phrasing and overall delivery, whilst also adding his own flare as well as using various spatial vocals effects matched with his own deep love for vocoders. For instance, where you once heard Lacey defiantly shout “Yeah!” on now-seminal opener ‘Sowing Season‘, you now hear a much softer, dual-layered and vocoder-edited “yeah” – more a faint whisper than the loud shout, one that begets this version’s Flume-like undertones. Another example of this would easily be ‘Jesus Christ‘ – the classic third-track from the original 2006 record. An emotional song like that given a musical overhaul like this becomes even more of a tearjerker, especially when Simple Mind matches the song’s unforgettable vocal and guitar vibrato hook (here beautifully supplemented with piano’s and strings) perfectly.
In stepping out of the initial record’s rock realm and into that of moody electronica and synth-pop, Simple Mind’s take on Brand New’s milestone release see songs like ‘Milestone‘ and ‘Degausser‘ channel the almighty Health more than the original creators or any other mid-2000’s emo or rock band. And I’m all about that, personally – something that goes doubly so for the instrumental and chaotic nature of ‘Welcome To Bangkok‘ in its equally noisy setting here as well.
All up, this is a superb take on Brand New’s decade old fan-favourite. Even if you don’t love or like the music here, I think that anyone can really appreciate the dedication, process, execution, and the sheer amount of love that’s gone into this release – one that honours and does justice to the original so well. If you’re a major sweater of what some people would call Brand New’s true magnum opus (I’m much more of a ‘Daisy‘ man myself), or you’re just really curious, stream ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Beside Me‘ below.
I mean, it’s not like LP5 is coming anytime soon, right?
Brand New worship aside, Simple Mind has an original piece of electronic/ambient/screamo music called ‘Lost In A Book [pt. 1]’, which you can stream/buy here. No bullshit, it’s actually quite good! Sadly, however, that was released in 2015 and since his foray into Brand New, he created a beautiful re-imaging of Sylvan Esso’s ‘Sound‘ just this year. Hopefully, this current silence since breaks soon…