Review Summary: Brand New burns down the forestDaisy
will always be viewed as the simplistic, rage-filled successor to Brand New’s 2006 magnum opus, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
. It was hailed as a disappointingly “good” record by those of us who became accustomed to greatness, and even though time has been kind to the album’s reputation, it is still viewed as the lesser of two – possibly three – masterpieces in Brand New’s discography. Although I do not entirely disagree with that sentiment, I’ve still always felt like Daisy
is strongly overlooked. It’s not simple
so much as it is emotionally exhausted; Lacey doesn’t conjure as many arresting religious images not because he can’t think of what to say, but because he no longer cares. That’s what The Devil and God
was – it was Lacey caring about everything, sometimes way too much, and outpouring those thoughts and emotions onto paper and delivering them through a microphone. But that album took something out of him, and quite possibly the entire band. It’s as if they were bearing their souls, waiting for an answer they knew they’d never receive. Have you ever gotten so depressed that there is absolutely nothing that could lift your spirits? Or so furious that words seem to lose their value? In the heat of being that
enraged, dejected, and hurt, nothing matters anymore and the only thing left to do is scream. Enter Daisy
Not unlike a person’s mental health, the emotional state of Daisy
is not quite as uniform as it appears on the surface. The grungy alt-rock approach gives off the vibe that Brand New is loud for the sake of being loud, screaming their lungs out and slamming their instruments in order to stir up as much chaos as possible. But underneath it all, the record is deceivingly complex. Apparently meaningless lines like “that forest burned” carry more weight than you may realize, and spiritual imagery is hardly as lacking on this album as some would have you think. Daisy
is actually a delicate vessel, paranoid and afraid of everything from death to failure. There’s an aura of hopelessness that prevails throughout the majority of the record, as Lacey continually slanders his own self-worth and expresses a desire for some sort of destructive cleansing, the form of which varies over the span of the record. The themes and motifs on Daisy
are worth noting, because without looking at what
Lacey and company are trying to say behind all the discordance and chaos, you’ll just find yourself listening to a lot of soul-wrenching screams and distorted riffs. That’s not so bad, but it’s nowhere near experiencing the full breadth that Daisy
has to offer both as a musical experience and as a work of art.
This album feels a bit like a psychotic breakdown. The first evidence of instability comes on ‘Vices’, when the band curiously chooses to kick things off with a 1920s gospel hymn (‘On Life’s Highway’), before abruptly transitioning into a cacophonous sea of thumping bass, crashing drums, dissonant electric guitars, and oh
– Jesse Lacey screaming “we need vices!” like a deranged mental patient. Amidst verses chanting “those days are dead” and a chorus that invokes imagery of a woman leaping to her demise, it’s not exactly the cheeriest of songs. The most intriguing line, and not to mention a recurring image, is that of some forest, somewhere, burning down
. “That forest burned / We need ten years, everyone, so we can return”, Lacey screams at a fever pitch during the height of the song’s chorus. The passage has a two-pronged meaning, seeing as it could be taken as a metaphor for the band – which is now seven years in without a successor to Daisy
– or as part of the sinister allusion that Lacey returns to on the closing track ‘Noro’ in which he incites burning down the forest after his passing. Even if the meaning of this particular motif is unclear, it’s apparent that the forest in some way symbolizes either his life or Brand New’s, while the fire represents the impending death that Jesse seems to feel is imminent.
So why is Lacey so convinced that death and destruction is nigh? Once again, there’s more than one possible explanation. It’s a well-known fact that Jesse grew up going to Catholic school and is well-rooted in the teachings of the Bible as well as knowledge of the Christian faith. While there are no open letters to God on this album (at least not in the way that ‘Jesus’ was) , there are still quite a few Biblical allusions, with many of them pointing to passages that detail the end of the world. On ‘In a Jar’, there’s a backwards verse in the pre-chorus that at first listen sounds like gibberish, but when played in reverse portrays the message “the chariots shall rage in the streets.” It’s almost certainly a reference to Nahum 2:4
, which states that in the days of preparation, “ The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightning.” While many have equated such a metaphor to traffic and vehicles of the modern day, even going as far as to analyze “broad ways” as a reference to the street in New York City, it’s difficult to pin down exactly why this line was hidden in the song. On the record’s title track, a recording of a preacher starts things off with a reference to Just As I Am
, a well-known hymn written by Charlotte Elliott in 1835 about how to find salvation through Christ. It’s ironic, then, how Lacey goes on to defame himself in such a way that suggests he is totally beyond salvation: “I'm a river that is all dried up / I'm an ocean nothing floats on…I'm a mouth that doesn't smile / I'm a word that no one ever wants to say.” He then proceeds to translate that message to his apparent views on the entire world, noting that “If the sky opened up and started pouring rain / Like he knew it was time to start things over again / It'd be all right, it's all right / It'd be easier that way.” Anyone who is familiar with the story of Noah knows what this is about, and Jesse’s sly indication that flooding the world again “would be easier that way” as opposed to trying to fix the status quo show the depths of despair to which he has sunken to. Daisy
isn’t meant to be an apocalyptic album or anything, but Brand New effectively uses the compelling prophecies and stirring paranoia present in certain Biblical passages to symbolize the end of the road; either for Jesse, the band, or society in general.
’s captivating obsession with death and “the end” seems traceable to Lacey’s apparent dissatisfaction with himself. As was previously alluded to, Jesse continually tears himself down on this record. There has always been a little self-deprecating on any of Brand New’s albums, sometimes tongue-in-cheek and other time sincere, but it aspires to new heights on the band’s fourth (and to date, still final) record. All of this self-inflicted frustration seems to come to a head on ‘Gasoline’, a thematically dark and musically fiery number that sees Lacey shout, “I swear it's like dying to catch a ghost” and “It feels like I'm trying to hold smoke.” Obviously, these are both futile exercises, but it shows a glimpse of how Lacey sees his efforts versus his goals. There’s an overwhelming sense of futility, like everything he wants in life is out of reach – or as if in his thirties, he has already somehow failed. Accompanied by manic electric guitars and an eerie, heavily distorted outro, ‘Gasoline’ stands as one of the most mysterious yet simultaneously revealing tracks on all of Daisy
’s primary themes all seem to revolve around endings rather than beginnings – be it for a life, band, or relationship – there’s bound to be a number of metaphors for death. Several of these have already been pointed out, but amidst such abundant imagery, it’s all too easy to overlook the spiritual side of those same metaphors. On The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me
there was a clear struggle occurring between good and evil; between innocence and loss. But if we were to judge the outcome by the majority of the content present on Daisy
, it’s obvious which side won out. In fact, if we want to look back at ‘Jesus’ in particular, Lacey even predicted this himself: “…but my light is too slight to hold back all my dark.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that on The Devil and God
Jesse made multiple references to heaven / Thomas / the gates, and here he makes multiple references to hell, death, and fire. Just look at ‘Noro’, in which he starkly proclaims “I’m on my way to hell” over and over again, or the indecipherably fragmented ‘Be Gone’, in which Lacey’s spine-chilling lyrics about voices from underneath the Earth telling him to come down
are hidden behind a veil of dissonance and twangy acoustic picking. Creepy moments like these all go hand in hand with the entire premise of Daisy
– it is the outcome of a total loss of innocence, of darkness winning out over hope and light. That’s why everything feels so straightforward and raw here; it’s because there’s nothing left for Lacey or the other band members to deliberate over. The idealism that we are all born with as children slowly dwindles over time until one day it finally ceases to exist entirely, and at that time nothing but cynicism and rage remains. In Jesse’s case, he has reached this point and has already resigned himself to being hell bound. It’s like Jesse penned on the scrapped Fight Off Your Demons
session – “something dies when you grow older, but you do the best you can.” It’s a sad regression, but one that Daisy
embodies with every fiber of its existence.
is anything but simple. Sometimes the most complex and trying moments of our life result in the most primitive responses. This album is a representation of all the negative emotions that swirl around inside our heads, and how at times they simply become too much for us to handle. Whereas in the past Brand New records have always represented something more, this record feels rooted in the here and now. It is simply the band just as they are
– full of disappointment and anger. Daisy
is a cathartic release that comes in the form of destruction. It’s a representation of how sometimes things can get so bad that it’s better just to start over. For Brand New, it seems as though their discography – and their entire approach to writing music – is the forest, and they’ve reached the end of their road in terms of exhausting creative options. With Daisy
, they bring the fire.