The first time I heard the band Brand New’s 2006 album The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me I was not prepared to be bowled over the way I was. I’d heard a little bit of the band before and had dismissed them as ‘Scream-O’. In retrospect the group’s early albums are a bit predictable and still pretty much remain outside my interest. However, and this is a big however folks, in recent years Brand New have become one of those rare commodities in popular music – the kind that evolves artistically.
After carving out a stable enough spot for themselves they began changing; clearly lovers of sound and production of the experimental variety ‘The Devil and God…’ is an album, in the sense that all the tracks seem to make a composite whole. However, it is unique among coherent albums of this era in that the underlying tone is accomplished despite the fact that every track is recorded differently. This makes the album a joy to listen to repeatedly, as there are always new things present in the mix depending on what you’re focusing on at any given moment.
Case in point – the drums. I’ve always been a big fan of recordings that utilize the room in which the drums were played. Zeppelin is a good example of this. So is some Peter Gabriel. A more modern example would be Primus’ BROWN album, an album that seems to divide a lot of the band’s fans. One reason for that division is the drums, which are recorded with a heck of a lot more ‘room’ on them than in any other Primus album, or modern album in general. The simple truth is that with all the slick studio gadgetry and effects, not to mention the ever escalating quality of microphones to capture those drum sounds with, most engineers concern themselves more with the pristine capture of their percussion than with capturing the enviroment as part of the performance. Some would say this is a direct result of the studio ‘arms race'; better and better gear creating a competitive streak through engineers to ‘out-capture’ their peers. Is that fact or conjecture? I don’t know. I’m not dissing pristine drum capture. Hell, a million dollar drum sound is the exact reason why I love Justin Timberlake’s first album or something somewhat banal like Lincoln park’s Meteora – you just can’t say no to a drum sound like that.
But that’s the consumer in me. The audiophile is more interested in eclectic and unexpected use of space in relation to the instruments and performers, which often gives us an especially timeless capture of the exact moments in which they were played. If it sounds like I’m rambling I am – the intangibilities of studio wizardary always makes me do so. However all you have to do to understand what I’m saying is throw on When the Levee Breaks – only don’t just listen to the song but the sound of the song: the reverb and drone hidden inbetween and behind the notes and beats and you’ll understand how you can know the past even while taking it into the future, forever.
I believe this is the way in which Brand New approach their music, and if the aforementioned ‘The Devil…’ isn’t enough to prove it then ‘DAISY’ their lastest album which was released this past Tuesday is another voucher for their cause.
At first glance Daisy surprised me. It seemed a little bit more light and dark than ‘The Devil’. The first song, although coninuing their interest in echewing common song structure and melody is heavy as fuck in a broken, disonant way. Okay. But then several other songs contain passages far heavier than anything on the previous. Not just heavier but a bit more like their scream-o roots. Not to fear however. After chewing on the album all day from a distance that night I sat down for some critical listening and the layers of technique and experimentation that opened up were completely in line with what I’d expected.
Daisy is Heavy, sad, a skosh whiny but 100% innovation for modern heavy music. The lucid, syrupy soft passages ebb and flow like days spent adrift on the ocean, and heavy parts crash in like lightening over said sea and make the listener want to explode violence – at times even while holding them still with promises of multiple layers of distant, shouted vocals and thick albeit often counter-intuitive guitars. This is a solid album from a group that has very quickly worked it’s way into my favorites.
Buy it and support a great band so they can keep pushing the boundaries.