Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brand New

Ever-changing rockers tour with a new album, ‘Daisy,’ its style markedly different even to them

Pity the creative rock band with perpetual forward momentum. By the time people have come around to your latest game-changing effort it’s time to move on. Fortunately for Brand New, that scenario has not proved detrimental to the critical acclaim the Long Island quartet has won over the course of 10 years and four divergent albums.

One might not have expected as varied and fruitful a career from the band at the time of its 2001 debut, “Your Favorite Weapon.’’ An uneven if exuberant and scrappy affair, it struck a deep chord in the crowded emo, pop-punk scene that dominated the early part of the decade. In 2003, “Deja Entendu’’ had singer Jesse Lacey temporarily assume the mantle of voice of the postmillennial generation with lyrics that exhibited a caustic eye for detail, a mischievous sarcasm, and world-weary ennui. With woebegone, singalong, stadium-punk anthems like “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spinlight’’ and “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,’’ Brand New seemed the rare band populist enough to explode, but smart enough to retain its underground edge.

The 2006 follow-up, “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me,’’ was a confounding encore. A more contemplative effort, it eschewed much of the band’s crossover potential and sonic breast-beating for meandering, reserved diversions. It proved to be a creative milestone in the band’s career. For the first time in years, fans in the scene seemed to be saying here was a band we could actually believe in.

Yet some are still pining for a return to the majesty and grandeur of “Entendu.’’ With the release of “Daisy’’ this summer, it became clear there would be no return to that form for the band, which plays the House of Blues on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Daisy’’ is such a contrast to Brand New’s earlier work that it’s almost hard to believe it’s the same band. The caustic, dirty throwback to mid-’90s guitar indie and punk screaming is a pretty mess. It’s a credit to the band’s reputation that it can release a neo-grunge record and have it seem like a big step forward in contemporary punk.

Drummer Brian Lane says it surprised the band, too. “I know when we came out of the studio and listened to it, we were like, I have no idea who this is. I don’t understand where this came from!’’ Being able to change styles like that is a blessing, he says. “I think there’s a leniency in some regard from people who listen to us.’’

It’s also a necessity. “We need to do that stuff in order to keep ourselves entertained and keep ourselves intrigued as well. We don’t do it because we can get away with it, but because we get bored with what we create. Especially when you’re writing a record for a year, the song that you started with, thinking it’s going to be the best song on the record, suddenly you hate, so you have to create something else. And that something else that you create is probably the antithesis of what that song was to begin with.’’

It’s a refreshing rejoinder to many of their contemporaries who seem content to ride out the last waning days before the emo apocalypse on the fumes of scenes past. “That’s just boring,’’ Lane says. “When you write a record, then go on tour playing those songs for two years, it seems crazy that you can go back into the studio and write the same kind of stuff.’’

What they’ve written here is a collection of thrashing, scream-driven rockers, like album opener “Vices,’’ interspersed with chopped-up blues experiments like “Be Gone’’ and shouting, swampy marches like “At the Bottom.’’

The combination, as many fans and critics have pointed out, seems to find the band hovering somewhere at the nexus of Modest Mouse and Nirvana. Lane doesn’t see it. “It’s kind of weird that people say that,’’ he says. “To say that was the big influence on the record is definitely not true. I mean, those bands have been staples in our lives for a long time, so maybe that had something to do with it, but that’s as far as I can even think about it.’’

None of that matters when you dig into the record on a visceral level. Lacey, venerated as one of the best lyricists in contemporary rock, shared some of the writing duties with guitarist Vincent Accardi on this record, and the difference shows in a handful of clunking metaphors. But on tracks like “At the Bottom,’’ the brutal simplicity of the idea and the sincerity of the delivery render pretensions to rock poetry almost moot.

“I carry this box to its proper place. And when I lower it down, I let you fade away. I know that you would do this for me,’’ Lacey sings. He sells the drama raw, and fans are happy to take it home with them and use it. With Brand New that’s one thing you can count on staying the same.

Boston Globe

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