Review Summary: A worthy entry into Brand New's lauded canon of excellent albums.
What makes an average day memorable? Well, I don’t care what your answer would be…but for me, for your standard indie-minded teenager brought up on pop-punk cheese and prog pretension, a Saturday night combo of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds
and Brand New’s Daisy
did the trick. Naturally, I was worried that both endeavors would fall flat in the wake of previous masterpieces from both director and band. But it was a night of glorious parallels. I was happy to find Basterds
to be challenging, rewarding works of art worthy of their respective canons.
I’m not going to praise Mr. Tarantino, though, as excellent as his follow up to the abysmal Death Proof
may be. I’m going to praise Brand New. Formed at the turn of the century and spearheaded by mastermind Jesse Lacey, this band has excelled in the often-tiresome realm of alternative rock by means of reinvention and experimentation, an approach that has yielded for them both critical and commercial acclaim.
Over a career spanning the entire decade, Lacey and company have embraced a spectrum of styles. Your Favorite Weapon
was a promising but forgettable exercise in pop punk. Deja Entendu
set a new standard for Brand New, boasting clever self-aware lyrics accompanied by experimental emo music. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
was an ambitious indie-laced melancholia trip with post-rock influences. In only six years, Brand New displayed a sort of maturity rarely seen in a band with pop-punk roots. Before hearing 2009’s Daisy
, I considered Brand New to be the quintessential emo alt rock band of the 00’s. Guess what. I still do.
Practically every review for Daisy
, whether positive or negative, will single out first track “Vices” for doing two things: effectively setting the mood for the album, and effectively dispelling any possibility of it being Devil and God
part two. It’s true, though. “Vices” is horrifying. I haven’t been so affected by a soft-to-loud transition since, well, “Luca.” Within the first minute and a half of the album’s 40-minute runtime, Jesse is screaming his lungs out.
He rarely stops screaming, wailing, or shouting, either. Save for the brooding “Bed” and “You Stole” and the “Handcuffs”-esque title track, Brand New’s tortured leading man takes his voice to the upper registers seldom seen on previous outputs. But he doesn’t have to scream to give off undercurrents of emotion. All three of the aforementioned songs could have easily been placed on Devil and God
without affecting its subtle flow.
The rest of the songs are quite visceral. There’s no doubt about it, Daisy
is a heavy, heavy record. “Gasoline,” “Sink,” “Bought a Bride,” and “In a Jar” are all experiments in earth-shattering grunge. Feedback abounds, distortion swirls this way and that, and the occasional wall-of-noise whines mercilessly. And the thing is, the songs are all fairly short and to the point. They rev up, they demolish, and then they depart.
Don't get the false impression, however, that Daisy
is a spastic mess, because it's not. Although grit is key to Brand New's formula here (think the noisier sections of "Not The Sun" or "Archers"), it is carefully balanced with more subdued, ambient parts. For example, "Gasoline" has Jesse Lacey letting go the reins as he embraces vocal desparation accompanied by instrumental chaos. But in an instant the vocals, the guitar, the drums, everything ceases, slowly leading into a minute of distanced ambient feedback.
"Bed" is even more relaxed. It's a dark semi-funky crooner complete with atmospheric effects very much in the vein of the band's previous studio album. Likewise, the guitar parts on the softer sections of "You Stole" seem to borrow influence from the dismal post-rock of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. In this way, Daisy
succeeds in blending downtempo moments into an album riddled with fire and passion.
is a bit of a letdown, seeing as Deja
and Devil and God
sported some wonderful verses. Here the best lines are short, dark, and schizophrenic (i.e. “Just say goodbye to the ground,” “It feels like I’m jumping towards a train,” “I’m on my way to hell.”) At first glance, these lines hold absolutely no weight to past zingers, but it’s the emotion in Jesse’s voice that makes these lines memorable and effective. So while many listeners will find the music and vocal approach to completely undermine any lyrical significance, this should not be the case.
There is no filler here. No, not even “Be Gone,” a foreboding southern track featuring frantically sliced vocals and a thudding beat. Those of you who found first single “At the Bottom” inferior should reevaluate; it sounds much better in context of the album. Also, those who criticize Daisy
for mimicking Nirvana and Modest Mouse should chill out. Yes, there are some notable similarities between Daisy
and In Utero
, but any influence is worn only in homage. The same goes for Modest Mouse.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of Daisy
, however, is its energetic three-track conclusion. “Daisy” has Brand New using electronic beats that lead into an explosion of drums while Lacey moans a string of self-deprecating lyrics. “In a Jar” is a monster of a track that blares, reverberates, and drones straight into “Noro,” Daisy
’s own “Limousine.” “I want to burn down everything we’ve begun. / I want to kill and eat my young,” says a distraught Jesse. He then condemns himself. And then the song ends. And then a hymn-singing woman greets the listener in the same way the album begins. And then it’s over. Is this it? Does Daisy
’s conclusion signal an end to Brand New? Maybe, maybe not. She loves me, she loves me not…
is a satisfying listen. It takes multiple listens to appreciate, and devout fans of the band’s earlier work will find it difficult to love. Think about it this way: I didn’t really like Inglourious Basterds
the first time. I saw it again. Guess what I thought of it the second time. Exactly.