Four albums, each stylistically distinct from its predecessor, prove the wide scope of Brand New’s sonic flexibility. With influences that range from pop-punk powerhouses Descendents to the Smiths to Modest Mouse, this band’s sound has taken many different shapes in the fourteen years since Your Favorite Weapon dropped in 2001.
Brand New released their first new studio track in six years on Monday, the hard-driving “Mene.” It shows a clear lineage to Morrissey and the Smiths,’ showcasing that group’s influence on the band’s lyrics and a fuzzy guitar attack that recalls both Social Distortion and songs from Brand New’s back catalogue.
With a band as wildly diverse as Brand New, looking back at the band’s earlier material may not be the best indicator of what Jesse Lacey and company have in store. Still there could be a few clues here, in our favorite 10 tracks from Brand New’s back catalogue.
“Mix Tape” (Your Favorite Weapon, 2001)
Brand New’s first record showcased more snotty, pop-punk sound, which the band later scrapped for the more plaintive and simple sound on their next three records with chords ringing out each note. “Mix Tape,” from their debut disc, foreshadows that transition. A song that seemingly kicks off a kiss-off mixtape for that immature ex who won’t go away, unfolds over a slow-burning near-four-minute mark.
“Vices” (Daisy, 2009)
Remember the scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack, Jack Black, and that one guy who was also in the Ted Danson vehicle Becker, discuss great track one, side ones? For my money, this is one of Brand New’s openers. Bars of the gospel hymn “On Life’s Highway”(written by Bertrand Brown) act as the calm before the storm. Thrashing guitars and pounding drums take over where the hymn leaves off, leaving a sonically jarring soft-to-loud juxtaposition.
“Me Vs. Maradona Vs. Elvis” (Deja Entendu, 2003)
Jesse Lacey has said in countless interviews about how he writes with just himself and an acoustic guitar. This cut from the soon-to-be-rereleased-on-vinyl Deja Entendu is proof positive of that writing style. Slow, flanger-powered chords pasted behind Lacey’s hushed lead vocals make up the majority of this slow jam until a crescendo of drums, bass and rhythm guitar fill it right out to the end.
“Fork And Knife” (Single, 2007)
A little-heard single released to primarily digital retailers in 2007, “Fork and Knife” sounds less like the fare fans had grown accustomed to from the band, and more like something that would’ve landed on Jack’s Mannequin’s discs. The title is derived from the name of a restaurant at the Wantagh stop on the Long Island Railroad, and drummer Brian Lane keeps a pretty consistent pocket over a rolling piano riff.
“Sowing Season” (The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, 2006)
The sound and the fury. That’s what’s onstage at a Brand New live show. You can see Lacey front and center, stoically singing songs like the one featured here, but to his left you can see guitarist Vin Accardi thrashing wildly, Stratocaster in hand. Some men were meant to be onstage with distorted guitars as their sonic footprint. Accardi is one such gentleman. I saw the band take to the stage at Boston Calling in 2014 and simply hadn’t seen a band whip a crowd that large into a frenzy quite like that.
“Seventy Times 7” (Your Favorite Weapon, 2001)
Some feuds end…and some just go on to live in infamy. The latter is certainly the case when it comes to the beef between Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. The song takes a reference from the Bible verse Matthew 18:22, talking about how many times the disciple Peter should forgive someone who has sinned against him. “Seventy Time 7” chronicles the spat between Lacey and TBS guitarist/vocalist John Nolan. Later, Taking Back Sunday released “There’s No ‘I’ in Team,” which gives Nolan’s account of the squabble. Lacey and Nolan may have squashed their dispute later, but that hasn’t exactly stopped TBS and Brand New trading barbs in the years since. Just ask Adam Lazzara. He’ll tell you EXACTLY what he thinks of the Brand New frontman.
“Jesus Christ” (The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, 2006)
Jesse Lacey is one of those inquisitive types always willing to ask the tough questions of himself and the world in which he lives. 2007’s “Jesus Christ” fits that description as he tackles one of his recurring subjects, religion. The answers Lacey is looking for might not be able to be found within the pages of the Bible on his bookshelf, but he’ll ask them anyway. The song also features some of the band’s best call-and-response vocals of their later albums. Accardi’s clean yet bruising guitar work only elevates the track’s cause.
“Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” (Deja Entendu, 2003)
Here, bassist Garrett Tierney is front and center. The pulsing, rolling bass line provides the backbone for this Deja Entendu single. The title derives from a line from Wes Anderson’s landmark film Rushmore, yet sounds nothing like the 1960’s Brit-pop fare that the famed indie-director routinely uses in his films. Deja Entendu marked a turn towards maturity for the band sonically and thematically, and “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” displays the band’s new sound.
“Jude Law And A Semester Abroad” (Your Favorite Weapon, 2001)
Here’s the scenario: boy meets girl. Boy and girl date for a little bit until girl presumably breaks boy’s heart into a million small pieces, conveniently right before a Study Abroad trip. Boy then writes angsty out-of-love song about aforementioned crappy now-ex-girlfriend. Lacey’s earlier lyric work seemed like the type of prose that one only dreams about theoretically putting into a “I-swear-it’s-just-a-draft-and-I-won’t-hit-‘send’ email.” This, the band’s debut single, put that ethos on full blast.
“Degausser” (The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, 2006)
This may not sound like a conventional love song, but this is the closest Jesse Lacey may ever get to balladry. The pre-chorus screams seem like Lacey is yearning to be heard despite faults of his own or his love in question. This tune’s bridge (and outro) is really a simple plea: Take me back and I’ll ignore your bad qualities and we’ll be happy again.
Though, like anything, especially relationships, once a piece to the puzzle has fractured, there’s little chance of things healing back to health, no matter how loud, passionate and musically thrilling the protest may be.