brand new, every time: a retrospective

it started with the tongue-in-cheek line “i hope the next boy that you kiss has something terribly contagious on his lips”, and i was sold. since penning those angry yet hilarious words in “jude law and a semester abroad” it’s been a long and winding road for the long island four piece known as brand new.

brand new is as perplexing as they are talented and ambitious. when they broke onto the scene in 2000, just one of many pop-punkers in a sea of average bands, i was intrigued. lead man jesse lacey had a knack for putting words and phrases together that seemed too big for the sound that the music created. there was more here than meets the eye. their debut your favourite weapon was a young mans letter to the world, full of break ups, empty bottles and broken promises, but the record for all its fun, was lacking depth. it seemed just average enough to get lumped into the dollar bin.

the band followed with deja entendu, a record that felt much more sophisticated. lyrically and musically challenging, deja entendu established brand new as a rock band, not another pop-punk crew looking for their annual spot on the warped tour. brand new was off and running, but their direction was yet to be seen. their live show was a mess, with lacey often changing the tempo of the songs and singing them with an obvious disinterest. troubled rock star or bored brat? i couldn’t tell.

the first record on interscope was the devil and god are raging inside me. you can feel the major label tension here. lacey was under the gun to create something that people would buy, and that’s not his strong suit. rather than concede and re-make the first record, the band pushed into more challenging territory and wrote a strong, dense and heady record…again forcing fans to commit or jump ship. it’s a great record from start to finish and its on this album where you start to catch lacey’s indie-rock influences such as modest mouse, quicksand and built to spill.

the bands last offering, and potentially last recording as a band, was october 2008’s daisy. it’s an oddball recording. the record feels like a rollercoaster ride, with way too many twists and dips to every give you any semblance of peace. and that’s ok, it’s a heavier record that showcases the rest of the band taking over some of the song writing duties. once again, it’s the sound of a band entering new sonic ground, and the results are impressive. the heaviest and strangest brand new record by far, may be their best work to date.

it remains to be seen if brand new are finished, or in what way they’ll choose to release any new material if at all. but one thing remains constant. they’ve created music on their terms throughout their career, unafraid to write what they love to perform rather than what we “want” to hear. in a pure sense, brand new’s path has taken the same kind of turns as radiohead. each band refused to be cornered in by a “sound” or a box that the music media creates, and for that, i commend them. here’s to hoping the next record is as weird and beautiful as the bunch they’ve already shared.

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