For Unlawful Carnal Composition: Brand New- “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades”

Brand_New_Deja_Entendu

Hello, readers, and welcome to my brand new music series, “For Unlawful Carnal Composition,” which each week will examine, well, songs about sex. Sex and music go together like few other things, and what better way to explore the most basic human desire than through the magic of song?

We’re going to start off on the dark side of sex, with a moody, foreboding song from Long Island natives Brand New. This band has been one of my favorites since I first heard “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad,” “Seventy Times 7,” and Soco Amaretto Lime” from their debut album Your Favorite Weapon right at the start of my freshman year of college. With their second full-length Deja Entendu (roughly translanted from French to “Already Heard”), Brand New evolved from pop-punk heroes to a more intelligent, artsy aural team that dove headfirst into a variety of new influences and experiences, both lyrically and musically. The tune in question here, “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” is a song about a young man who, in caving into societal pressure, reluctantly loses his virginity to a much more experienced girl, and clearly hates every second of it.

Keep the noise low, she doesn’t wanna blow it
Shaking head to toe
While your left hand does the ‘show me around’
Quickens your heartbeat
It beats me straight up to the ground

You don’t recover from a night like this
A victim, still lying in bed, completely motionless
A hand moves in the dark to a zipper
Hear a boy bracing tight against sheets
Barely whisper, “This is so messed up”

The song starts off with a thumping, ominous bass line that continues throughout the song, reminiscent of a terrified heartbeat. Lead singer Jesse Lacey goes into great detail to describe this scene, which ends up edging as close as possible to full-blown rape, save for the young man’s barely-there shred of misguided acceptance. The atmosphere of the song makes it easy to picture this encounter in a dark room, as a wave of sweat and nausea overtakes someone who is about to make a decision that they will regret forever.

Upon arrival the guests had all stared
Dripping wet and clearly depressed
He’d headed straight for the stairs
No longer cool, but a boy in a stitch
Unprepared for a life full of lies and failing relationships

He keeps his hands low, he doesn’t wanna blow it
He’s wet from head to toe and
His eyes give her the up and the down
His stomach turns and he thinks of throwing up
But the body on the bed beckons forward
And he starts growing up

It’s tough here to avoid sounding like a disgruntled old man, but for all the pressure put on teenagers to lose their virginity, just to say that they’ve done it, the result is too often loads of regret, in the form of illegitimate children, diseases, broken relationships and the like. Lacey’s purposely breathy vocals throughout the song are enough to get just about anyone all hot and bothered, especially considering the lurid subject matter at hand, but the lyrics are racked with dismay.

The fever, the focus
The reasons that I had to believe you weren’t too hard to sell
Die young and save yourself
The tickle, the taste of
It used to be the reason I breathed but now it’s choking me up
Die young and save yourself

The song’s chorus, above, turns up the volume and addresses the undeniable feelings during sex, as Lacey references “the fever, the focus,” and “the tickle, the taste of…”, and relates how placing such monumental importance on the act of sex detracts from the beauty it can represent. A final warning is given, as Lacey screams “DIE YOUNG AND SAVE YOURSELF!!”.

She hits the lights, this doesn’t seem quite fair
Despite of everything he learned from his friends
He doesn’t feel so prepared
She’s breathing quiet and smooth
He’s gasping for air

“This is the first and last time,” he says
She fakes a smile and presses her hips into his
He keeps his hands pinned down at his sides
He’s holding back from telling her
Exactly what it really feels like

The situation becomes even more volatile, as our young protagonist actually gets into the act with the girl, who is clearly practiced and in cool command. “Despite everything he learned from his friends, he doesn’t feel so prepared,” is a hard-hitting but relatable line, as no one really knows what to do their first time, no matter how many movies they’ve seen, or how many pointers they’ve been given by their loud-mouthed friends. The character at the forefront of this story has no desire to be where he is, even going so far as to tell the girl who is currently on top of him, “this is the first and last time,” out loud. That first time assuredly does not even feel all that great to many people, and “let’s just get this over with” may very well be the primary thought that makes its way through the nerves and racing heartbeats.

He is the lamb, she is the slaughter
She’s moving way too fast and all he wanted was to hold her
Nothing that he tells her’s really having an effect
He whispers that he loves her
But she’s probably only looking for

So much more than he could ever give
A life free of lies and a meaningful relationship
He keeps his hands pinned down at his sides
He waits for it to end
And for the aching in his guts to subside

What makes this song even more interesting, and I’m delving into touchy territory here, is that at least as far as the general perception goes, it is not often that women are found to be in such borderline violent control of a sexual situation. This turning of the tables throws the listener for a loop, unless of course you’re a man who has been in this situation before – almost completely unwilling, but still drawn to it like awkward college kids to scummy frat parties. You don’t really want to be there, but you feel like you have to be – because it’s cool, and because you’ve been told that you should.

Up the stairs, the station where
The act becomes the art of growing up

“Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” is a brilliantly detailed play-by-play of a traumatizing first go of it. The verses are subdued but still fraught with danger, and choruses explode off the recording, with raucous guitars and screams, representing a perilous climax. This song should be fully haunting, whether or not you’ve ever even had sex.

The music video, posted below, is awesome, and its theme fits the song perfectly. Watch for yourself now.

That does it for the first installment of my new music series, “For Unlawful Carnal Composition.” Tune in next week for another breakdown of a sex-themed musical creation!

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