September 22, 2009 - DGC/INTERSCOPE/PROCRASTINATE! MUSIC TRAITORS
It’s been three years since Brand New issued their major-label debut, 2006’s spectacular The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, and due to a widespread media blackout from Jesse Lacey & Co., we still haven’t learned what the album was about or what went into its creation. Now that its follow-up, Daisy, is in the can, we don’t ever expect to crack the code behind “Degausser” or “You Won’t Know.” The band have presented a whole new set of dark, dense songs without providing an explanation or reason for any of them--and to make things even more complex, guitarist Vincent Accardi wrote the majority of the album, instead of frontman Lacey. Is the difference noticeable?
Sounding far looser and less methodical than Devil And God, Brand New’s fourth album eschews elaborate arrangements for a record that feels half-improvised at times and brutally raw throughout. It’s sonically akin to Nirvana’s In Utero, mainly because you can tell by listening that the people who made it just don’t give a fuck. The record begins with just under 90 seconds of an old church hymn before launching full-on into “Vices,” quite possibly the most sinister track the band have ever put to tape, loaded with frantic guitar squalls and Lacey’s gut-wrenching scream. Kurt Cobain would be proud.
The disc’s first single, “At The Bottom,” continues the post-grunge vibe, with lyrics about burying a loved one interred in a dirty, lo-fi recording that sounds like the evil twin of Devil And God’s “Jesus.” “Sink” also comes straight out of the Nirvana playbook, with quiet verses, an ultra-loud chorus and Lacey taking on the vocal melody like an old delta blues singer. The album’s sequencing is to his benefit, as directly before “Sink” is “Be Gone,” a 90-second interlude that actually sounds like delta blues. Lacey’s deliberately delayed, distorted vocal line makes the listen an uncomfortable one, which ultimately allows his style on “Sink” to be easier to stomach.
From the fiery intensity of “Vices” and “Gasoline” to the slow burn of “You Stole” (the album’s best and most lyrically brutal track), Daisy is incredibly top loaded. Although the disc never truly takes a nosedive, its second half suffers from a lack of any supremely memorable moments and only makes the listener want to hear its first half once more. Is this the fault of Accardi, who Lacey admitted wrote the bulk of the record? It’s hard to say, as the lyrical themes present on the largely Lacey-penned Devil And God--religion, death and the afterlife--are still prominent on Daisy’s lyric sheet. The music is some of the band’s angriest yet, but at times, it sounds like it’s loud just for the sake of being loud (“In A Jar”).
It’s hard for many Brand New superfans to admit, but it’s entirely possible that the band simply wrote a good album this time around, not a great one. As Lacey sings (and Accardi writes) on “Noro,” the album’s closing track, "I'm on my way out." (Or, depending on which set of ears is listening, “I’m on my way to hell.”) After three classic, genre-defining albums (it’s far too early to gauge Daisy’s impact on the scene), maybe it’s time for the band to ride off into the sunset while they’re still able to mount the horse.