Five years ago, one of the most revered and beloved bands in the scene presented the follow up to one of the most revered and beloved albums in the scene. Five years ago, one of the most loyal and unflinching fanbases in the scene received the follow-up to one of the most revered and beloved albums in the scene. Five years ago, the follow-up to one of the most revered and beloved albums in the scene wrecked havoc in one of the most loyal and unflinching fanbases in the scene. Five years ago, Brand New released Daisy.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more divisive record in this music scene than Daisy. There is hardly any middle ground with it. For the most part, it is either a revelation or an unlistenable collage of noise. The majority of listeners would side with the latter. And you can’t blame them, because that is accurate. It is a whirlwind of sound and intensity that can’t be contained into the expectations that people had for the band. It doesn’t make sense. But here, five years later, as I look into the chaotic darkness that the record beholds, I find myself gravitating to it more than any other in the band’s catalogue. It’s a confusing sentiment, but one that I stand by: Daisy is very nearly Brand New’s best album. I say very nearly because, to me, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me is a perfect record that will not be surpassed. The combination of everything that album presents and the time in my life it appeared in is somewhat of a perfect storm. But Daisy cuts it close. The darkness, the ambiguity, the ferocity, everything about Daisy rides a thin line between revolting and revolutionary in an intoxicating way. Revisiting it five years later, I see the complaints and flaws, but more clearly than that, I see what makes it a special record.
THOSE DAYS ARE DEAD
It’s understandable for fans to resist change in a band’s sound. It is to be expected from certain individuals, ones who can’t comprehend the simple idea that bands change and grow, but the outcry over the stylistic change from Devil And God to Daisy is slightly puzzling. I would argue that the jumps from Your Favorite Weapon to Déjà Entendu and from Déjà Entendu to Devil And God are just as drastic, if not more so, than the jump from Devil And God to Daisy. Daisy seems like a fairly natural progression from the heaviest moments of Devil And God. It is the far extreme of where their most aggressive sound could go. Brand New is a band that had three very different sounding records at that point. Each album was a progression, a step away from the hook-laden pop punk of their debut and a step closer to the dark experimentation they seemed to be heading toward. They weren’t going to take a step backward at that point, so the decision embrace a more aggressive sound shouldn’t have been that surprising to most listeners.
The evidence that Daisy is not going to sound like its predecessors is presented immediately. The opener, “Vices”, makes it very clear what is about to transpire. It is a very deliberate statement right off the bat. The moment when the quiet, scratchy recording gives way to thundering guitars, apart from giving you a heart attack the first time you heard it, is indicative of you crossing the threshold, beginning the strange journey Brand New is about to take you on. The record being framed in a 1920’s gospel hymn gives it an eerie dreamlike (or, more accurately, nightmare-like) aura. It is as if Brand New was pausing everything else around you, pulling you into their creation, and then releasing you back into the real world. It is an escape from reality, and when viewed through that lens, it doesn’t seem like such a wild left turn. It is Brand New pausing their career up to that point and exploring this avenue.
IT FEELS LIKE I’M JUMPING TOWARD A TRAIN
As a whole, Daisy is most notably associated with the heavier tracks. The album is split in its sound, but the louder cuts are certainly more synonymous with the record to the majority of listeners. And by louder cuts, I mean really damn loud. The songs jump out of the speakers with an intensity that is unmatched. They’re not just loud. They’re angry. There is a palpable feeling of fury that consumes them.
On “Gasoline”, the band builds an ever-present tension as the song ebbs and flows, leaving the listener with a constant uneasiness with what is around the next bend. Jesse Lacey’s guttural refrain “It feels like I’m jumping towards a train” is soul wrenching in its delivery, as are nearly all of the vocals present on Daisy. Lacey fully embraces the harshest side of his voice for much of the record, and does so in a way that doesn’t feel forced and contrived, but instead comes across as natural, as a completely cathartic release of whatever demons addled him. Those vocals carry a huge amount of emotional weight, especially among the heavier songs, including another standout, “Sink”. The appeal of “Sink” is in the dichotomy of quiet and loud that it possesses. The simple, bouncy verses are interrupted by literal explosions of sound, erupting suddenly through the calmness, and then disappearing just as quickly, as if it were being shoved back to where it came from, only to emerge again. “In A Jar” is structured similarly, with the twangy guitar and bass line (it should be noted, Garrett Tierney’s bass work on the record is absolutely phenomenal) being interrupted by quick bursts of sonic anarchy, before being reeled back in. The heavier moments are handled with such care, never dragging on or feeling loud for the sake of being loud. They feel like they have a purpose, like they are utilized with specific intentions throughout.
I THINK SOMETHING DARK’S LIVING DOWN IN MY HEART
If the heavier parts of Daisy are the most prominent, the softer tracks are the backbone. The tension created by the back and forth of the two extremes is what produces the atmosphere that makes the record so special. The transition from “Vices”, one of the most caustic songs on the record, to “Bed”, a reserved, haunting number, is certainly a jarring one, but the presence of a song like “Bed” accents those other moments in a way that only increases their overall effectiveness. The contrast aids both sides, and without each other they would be far less impactful.
These less abrasive tracks do not lack any of the emotional heaviness, however. Even without the deafening screams and screeching guitars, the songs still retain the gloomy, ominous feel that the record as a whole has. The title track is the most tranquil instance here, with its programmed drums and simple guitar line plodding along until they give way to a grandiose finale, but it still carries with it an immense weight. It is an unsettling three minutes, created by layer upon layer of sound, until it morphs itself into a behemoth, then slowly fades back out, following the same pattern as much of the record.
I WANT TO BURN DOWN EVERYTHING WE’VE BECOME
Daisy has no weak links. It is consistently strong throughout, but its highest point is reached in the closer. “Noro” is essentially a representation of everything that Daisy is in its entirety. Everything preceding it on the record has been leading up to this moment and has culminated in a majestic fashion. All the strange noises, all the musical experimentation, all the lyrical references, it comes to a boil in this one song. It is a liberating release of all the anxiety and pressure that has been built up along the way. I liken the repetition of “I’m on my way out/I’m on my way to hell” to a ship going down at sea. After all the weight that Daisy has carried, it is now crumbling, sinking back to where it came from. “Noro” is the perfect ending to everything the listener has just endured.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend to not understand the objections against Daisy. I can see the reasons it is regarded the way it is. It is disjointed. There is no real flow to the sequencing, and some of the choices seem purposely illogical (such as the feedback from the end of “Gasoline” appearing at the beginning of “Noro” seven songs later). The lyrical content is vague and confusing. There are continued references to fire and a forest, as well as numerous Biblical references, but the significance of these things are up for interpretation. These are all legitimate complaints to level against the record, but looking at everything as a whole, doesn’t it all sort of make sense? Nothing about Daisy caters to the ideas of what this record should have been. Collectively, Daisy is pure chaos. Musically, lyrically, conceptually, it is chaos. No singular part of it makes sense, but together it seemingly does. There is a beauty in all the ugliness that Daisy has to offer. It represents the deepest, darkest depths of the band and the listener. Daisy is a ride through hell, but as “Noro” fades and the gospel hymn resumes, it gives a feeling of closure. That journey is over and you are returned to where you were. Brand New will likely never venture down this path again, but Daisy will forever be a reminder of it.