Brand New - Birmingham 02 Academy

Emo. It's the musical equivalent of Marmite; simply put, those in favour should be ashamed and/or fined a large sum. However, Brand New, a band who have hardly escaped the tag of 'emo' in the past, have been a permanent fixture on my MP3 player since I heard their 2004 album Deja Entendu. That album slowly but surely found itself shaping and accompanying the teenage years wherein I discovered alcohol and dank, dire - but brilliant (at the time anyway) - rock clubs. Although debut album Your Favourite Weapon, despite wittier lyrics than most of their then-competitors, offered little more than pretty generic pop-punk, its follow-up was an altogether smarter and more considered affair while keeping the energy and occasional screams. It also established frontman Jesse Lacey as a poster boy for girls - and more than a few boys - who preferred black to pink and digged Tim Burton a little more than most. With a fourth album due later this year, succeeding 2006's huge progression The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, the band visited Birmingham to show off some brand new (forgive me) material and show me just why they've managed to secure a place in my decidedly non-emo heart.

A rammed and very moist Academy is complete with the requisite eyelinered teens but there are lots of different specimens of Brand New fans - to be honest, I wasn't really aware just how popular the guys are, with their whole UK tour being a sell-out. Within fifteen minutes of them taking to the stage, they dispense with their biggest two singles - pitch-perfect performances of Quiet Things That No-One Ever Knows and Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades - as well as two of the only three songs aired from that first album, The Shower Scene and The No Seatbelt Song. The rest of the set is made up mainly of tracks from the second and third albums, the latter of which etched out ambitions to become the genre's equivalent to Radiohead. Dark, intense and initially hard to get a handle on, it's now a fave and features angst-heavy but equally catchy tracks like Sowing Season and Millstone.

The heavier stuff that appears on that album is performed with gusto, the guitars rivalling Muse and Brian Lane's drumming worthy of special praise. Lacey's vocal is suitably versatile, moving from the aggressive approach to new track Gasoline, the sardonic delivery on Okay I Believe You... and a softer solo spot on acoustic Play Crack the Sky. There is the occasional scream but thankfully it's up to their prowess as musicians to prove how loud they can get, a challenge that is fearlessly undertaken on Degausser and Luca, a song that lives and breathes the quiet/loud dynamic and climaxes with an intimidating wall of noise that inspires the spine shivers. The similarly dramatic You Won't Know casts an aura of awe over the crowd just before the guys depart from the stage.

And just when you think it's over (and we all know it never really is before the obligatory encore), a rendition of Soco Amaretto Lime from their early days shows us how far they've come. One of the better songs off the first record, inspiring a mass singalong to its refrain 'You're just jealous 'cause we're young and in love', it shows how far the band have come, its relative lightness in direct contrast to the increasingly maturity of newer material. 'Young and in love' may have evolved into 'older and in doubt' but theirs is an emo I can certainly prescribe to, finding new ideas somewhere in the racket.

Full setlist:

The Shower Scene
Quiet Things That No-One Ever Knows
The No Seatbelt Song
Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades
Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don't
Jaws Theme Swimming
Play Crack the Sky
Sowing Season
The Archers Bows Have Broken
You Won't Know

Soco Amaretto Lime

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