About 12 years ago, I had a quasi-friend (they exist, look it up) that I would bounce music recommendations off of and he would in turn do the same. One of his recommendations was the début of a band from Long Island that I had never heard of, Brand New. At his behest, I went to my local record store and promptly picked up Your Favorite Weapon. It only took one listen for me to be really, genuinely, Hulk-ragingly pissed off at how badly I had just wasted my money. I couldn’t understand how anyone could do a blank CD the terrible injustice of burning into it that collection of awful songs. To think of the potential that disc once had…it makes me weep.
I know this post isn’t going to win me a lot of friends (especially amongst my fellow writers, who have somehow managed to take the bait of YFW hook, line and sinker), but it simply must be done. It’s now been over ten years since this record’s release, and Brand New has gone on to do far more interesting things – I think it’s time for a little reflection to try and put this inexplicable fan favorite into perspective.
Let’s start with the terrible, wanna-be Matt Skiba-clever lyrics. There is nothing worse than someone who thinks they are cooler and funnier than they are (I urge all my close friends and loved ones to bite their tongues), and Jesse Lacey most certainly thinks he is something remarkable. Every line is a little play on words that is so painfully obvious or cliché that it honestly makes me cringe. It’s actually quite difficult to express how tired the lyrics are on this record, and many of you are likely housing them deep within the high walled castle of nostalgia in your brain, so let’s just look at them with a little objectivity here:
From ‘Sudden Death in Carolina:’
“What difference does this difference in age make? I know how it ends, so kill me quick. Call 911 – I’m already dead, but someone should be caught and held responsible for this bloody mess. Call homicide, take the case to court, because her lips taste like a loaded gun and I’m her number one chalk outline on the floor.”
Did you see how clever that was? Did you see the repetition of “difference” and the extended metaphor of the singer’s death? Personally, my favorite part is “her lips taste like a loaded gun,” because it’s so refreshing and unique and not cliché at all. And yes, of course the phrase “I’m her number one chalk outline on the floor” is awkward at best, but how else was he going to maintain the rhyme scheme and the iambic metre while keeping his imagery intact? Ultimately, it’s just not very good poetry. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal – most songs are not written by guitar-wielding Shakespeare’s. The problem is that he so clearly thinks that it’s good poetry. It’s contrived to the point of nausea.
From ‘Last Chance to Lose Your Keys:’
“You told me you can’t wait to see me and then you didn’t bother to even show up. This whole situation’s incredibly typical, I should have seen it all along. It’s girls like you that make me think I’m better off home on a Saturday night, with all my doors locked up tight. I won’t be thinking about you, baby.”
Go read that again, and this time do it without singing it in your head. Just read it. Doesn’t it sound like something you would find on your Facebook news feed? Isn’t this the kind of thing that makes you roll your eyes and wonder why you still have them as a “friend”? Yes, yes, this album was released in 2001, so perhaps that example is unfair, but if you search your memories for LiveJournal, it will all make sense again. There is nothing of value in those lyrics. Not one damn thing. And the song isn’t done there, folks:
“You call me on the phone and you don’t even want to talk. You’re staring at me from across the room, then turn your back when I walk up. We got inches away, and I never even got close, so leave your lipstick at home, don’t pick up the phone, don’t bother to look in my direction. I should have seen it all along.”
Usually, when something that juvenile comes out of your mouth, you’re on your way to jail. And it has the audacity to end with the repeated line “This isn’t high school.” Yes it is. It could not possibly be more high school. Every line of this song, and the album as a whole, reeks of teenage egocentricity. And in case you think I’m cherry picking my songs, let’s take a look at the universally accepted “best song on the album.”
From ‘Seventy Times 7:’
“As if this happening wasn’t enough, I got to go and write a song just to remind myself how bad it sucked. Ignore the sun, the cover’s over my heads, I wrote a message on my pillow that says ‘Jesse, stay asleep in bed.’ So don’t apologize. I hope you choke and die. Search your cell for something which to hang yourself. They say you need to pray if you want to go to heaven but they don’t tell you what to say if your whole life has gone to hell.”
Oh god, is it ever high school. No sane person over the age of eighteen could find those lyrics endearing. Especially worrying is the line “Search yourself for something which to hang yourself” – who is in the cell? I would assume it is the object of the song, the person that you just told to “choke and die,” but why are they in a prison? I thought the subject was the one feeling constrained and frustrated because the object had gotten away with this metaphorical crime? After all, there is much talk of a supposedly successful getaway that can only be thwarted by icy roads. It seems to me that the desire to sound clever has muddled up his clarity, and that isn’t very clever at all.
Of course, the lyrics of this album can’t be brought up without mentioning how supposedly awesome it is that this album is supposed to be sticking it Taking Back Sunday during their shitty emo version of 2Pac vs Biggie. But really, who cares about two terrible bands whining about each other? Well, apparently my editor, so I’m just going to let him take this one.
Chris: TBS wins the lyrical battle hands down. Did Adam Lazzara write some awful lyrics? Why, certainly! “The truth is that you could slit my throat and with my one last gasping breath I’d apologise for bleeding on your shirt” comes to mind. But when he was good, he was…well…clever: “I’m hoping for the best, just hoping nothing happens; a thousand clever lines unread on clever napkins. I will never ask if you don’t ever tell me – I know you well enough to know you never loved me.” You can actually see Adam fall apart before your eyes as he moves from hope to concrete knowledge that his relationship is over. First he hopes that nothing changes, then he thinks of asking what’s wrong but doesn’t dare go through with it, and finally he accepts that everything has fallen apart. It’s not earth-shatteringly brilliant by any means, but it’s a damn sight better than “I’ve seen more spine in jelly fish.”
Moving along, lets talk about the music. I’ll admit that the album starts off on a strong note with ‘The Shower Scene,’ although the production is so terrible on this song that it ruins its potential. It sounds like Jesse is singing into a mic covered with a wet rag. I presume this is the “new” sound he was going for? And then once you get past the opener, YFW hammers you with pop punk that is just as clichéd and juvenile as the lyrics. ‘Jude Law and a Semester Abroad’ sounds distinctly like it was written in a high schooler’s basement during lunch break. ‘Last Chance to Lose Your Keys’ sounds like it was written by Simple Plan. That’s not an insult, just an unfortunate statement of fact. Now, some of you are almost certainly angry that I would make that comparison, seeing as that Simple Plan song was released a year after ‘Last Chance to Lose Your Keys,’ but really now, it’s not like Brand New was doing anything that hadn’t been done before. Pop punk was by no means invented by Jesse Lacey. Granted, he took it in an emo-influenced direction, but he did it worse than Jimmy Eat World on Bleed American or Saves the Day on Stay What You Are, and those are only two other albums released in the same year as YFW. And at the end of the day, that’s what is wrong with this album. It sounds like a shitty pop punk record…mostly because it really is a shitty pop punk record. Even the beloved ‘Seventy Times 7’ is borderline ridiculous. The butt-rock intro is laughable and the gang vocals on “I hope you choke and die” are more than a little bit cringeworthy.
That’s not to say that the album is totally without worth – I like one of the two acoustic tracks. ‘The No Seatbelt Song’ is actually decent except for the annoying Morissey impression that Jesse is doing.
So let’s end this tirade. Is Your Favorite Weapon really THAT bad? Well, yes it is. But I honestly wouldn’t care or make such a stink of it if everyone else didn’t put it up on such a high pedestal. I have never understood why people have such a hard-on for this album. To put things into perspective, I absolutely loved Deja Entendu and had to eat a little crow because of how much crap I had talked about the band before that. Deja Entendu, as well as The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me, are phenomenal albums that deserve praise and repeated listens. I will even add that Deja was a genre defining album, and that it should be remembered as ahead of its time. So now you can put to rest any suspicions you may of had about prejudice here – I like Brand New, just not YFW. Sometimes I feel like I’m taking crazy pills, because I have never talked to anyone that shares my love of Deja while simultaneously hating YFW.
And why is that? My guess is nostalgia I can respect that sometimes we get attached to certain albums because they hit us at important points in our lives (I’m not particularly proud to admit that I own a Yellowcard album or two). I suspect that most of my friends love this album because it came out as they were going off to college, or it provided a backdrop to a break up, but that is absolutely no reason to claim that the album sounds good. It may hold a special place in your heart, and that is perfectly fine, but don’t go around telling everyone how awesome it is, because it is objectively awful. It was awful in 2001 and it’s awful now. And it’s been over ten years of unwarranted appreciation for this record, so can’t we all just sit down and admit that this album isn’t very good? It’s been done before; people used to like Poison and Motley Crue (and not in an ironic way you hipsters), but now we as a society have shunned them and relegated them to exclusively be played in trailer parks, dive bars, and strip clubs. It’s time we do the same with Your Favorite Weapon.