To say hype surrounds the release of Brand New's Daisy is as inordinate an understatement as the actual record is itself. A little more immediate than 2006's The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me and considerably more economical (talking 14 minutes shorter here), Daisy nonetheless continues further down the darker, deliberate path set by that monstrous, solemn record. With each passing studio full-length, the number of "upbeat" songs Brand New have respectively placed on their albums has dissipated, and Daisy is clearly no exception (read: there is no happy here).
Compared to Devil and God, the dynamics of the record are much, much more obvious and up front when strangely invigorating opener "Vices" transitions from a curiously long, sampled sermon recording of Bertrand Brown's "On Life's Highway" circa 1922 into an absolutely jarring and jolting, rhythmic blast. Bassist Garrett Tierney and drummer Brian Lane absolutely bring it here, a thumping rhythm section that provides a pleasantly cloying foundation to the noisest, most intense song in the band's canon yet -- vocalist/guitarist Jesse Lacey screaming cryptic musings and creepily singing self-interrogatives while guitarist Vin Accardi adds broken chords and fractured riffs. It's like the Jesus Lizard at their best, informed by (post-)hardcore disc(h)ordance with uncomfortable undercurrents of melody bleeding through it all.
On that note, Tierney is a surprising standout on record. His absolutely ugly, wavering lines in the second half of both Daisy's title track and depressingly anthemic closer "Noro" add a stomach-churning dimension to unwinding momentum, and he blisteringly bubbles below the surface of the abrupt tempo changes and corrosively concussive nature of "Gasoline." His cautious rising and falling motions for "You Stole"'s close add an interesting flair.
Generally, the album is looser, yet more dense than the band have tended to in the past. Producer Mike Sapone provided a hell of a template for Devil and God but largely seems to have abandoned it here, as much as the band's stylistic shift is probably a contributor. Less post-rock sparkly and clean, warm tones, the roomy recording is sometimes raw, otherwise fussily clustered in careful reverb and effects heightening tension.
Though its influences are easy to pick out, Brand New distills them more than well enough throughout Daisy's destructive course. Jagged interpretations of '90s alternative and indie rock are smeared across the board, a livid love of labor longing with subtle experimental motives and stop-start shuttering; it's a bit like an even more wrought yet time-condensed expansion on the self-titled EP released by friends Colour Revolt in 2006. Modest Mouse is a common namedrop ("At the Bottom") for one, but when speaking of the album as a whole, In Utero is a sensible parallel to draw: A couple of cathartic, loud fits of agitation with frequent guitar squalls and a spastic, searing Lacey ("Gasoline," "Bought a Bride") are interspersed among slower restraints coated in a southern drawl and Lacey's quieter discontent ("Bed"), as well as the song(s) that combine them ("In a Jar"). "Be Gone" is a Dixieland blues interlude, a practical Tom Waits nod with Lacey's vocals distorted with the same effect one might get from quickly clapping their hands over both ears.
It's said that for the first time in the band's career, Accardi handled the majority of the songwriting. If that's true for certain tracks, his lyrical foundations sometimes fall short of the band's potential ("Daisy"'s metaphors strangely blunt, curt and a little repetitive), but sometimes perfect for the procedure: "You Stole" is a breathy, somber six-minute conversion of common, crutched phrases into a vague critique of self or otherwise ("I wish that my condition was new, / but I'm old and rusting. / ... / I pretend like I got something to say, / but I've got nothin'. / ... / From the cradles they were robbed in, / you took the first words that they spoke... / yeah, you stole.").
This album is not the game-changer critics and fans may have expected, but it's an unquestionably forceful, potent and cohesive effort all the same. While arguably short of the sky-high marks set on previous endeavors, Daisy is a nonetheless great album and compelling addition to an already devastating discography.
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