Rock band Brand New’s infrequent musical output has frustrated fans to no end.
It’s been seven years since Daisy. Ten since Devil and God.
(Let that sink in).
Like an overlapping harmony, longtime Brand New fans lovingly obsess and revoltingly resent the Long Island quartet. I do too. There’s the waiting for new material, there are the mixed messages via merchandise, there is the complete and utter lack of communication (except for, of course, when they have something repurposed to sell).
It’s not uncommon for bands to keep private before releasing new music. The problem is that Brand New dangles the idea of new music in front their fans, but then never delivers. Playing coy for the sake of building interest is one thing. Lying to fans is another thing altogether.
Brand New is basically the deadbeat dad who missed our birthday party. Seven years in a row.
We forgive them because we love them and we can’t help it.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to forget— with our insatiable Brand New appetites — that there actually is new Brand New music out there. No full album but singles, live tracks, mastered and reworked demos have all surfaced, both officially and unofficially, over the last couple years.
So for the sake of therapy let’s review what we have so far.
Rating the Recent Stuff
Mene – Single (2015)
It’s not that “Mene” is a bad song. Underwhelming, maybe. Flippant, perhaps. But fun, frenetic and probably best heard live. The problem with “Mene” was that it was the first song after six years of radio silence. Fans had expectations. It’s probably true that no song could’ve satisfied the cravings of a rabid fan base. But still. Six years was a long time to wait for a song that sounds like it took 15 minutes to make.
I do quite enjoy the lyrics, however.
All the tides are married to the moon
All I want is for my heart to be as true
Written on the wall, the letters plain and tall
This is my own fault
We don’t feel anything
Not gone but fading fast
So let me put to rest
The only question that you’ll ask
If “Mene” was released, say, with a small batch of similar quality songs, I think it would’ve had a better shot with fans (including myself). But alas, we get what we get when we get it.
- Better than: Almost all of Daisy
- Wants to be: Nirvana
- Ends up being: Probably better in the long run
- Grade: B-
Sealed to Me – Live Single (2015)
So “Mene” happened, and then — in true BN fashion — a new live song on the other end of the sound spectrum emerged. Slow, quiet, dreary. Captured by fans on iPhones around the country at different tour stops, “Sealed to Me” gives us our first real taste of what maybe a new album might possibly sound like. That, or it’s just another random song and who knows.
As I hear it, “Sealed to Me” is an introspective Jesse Lacey solo on guitar bearing both transparent and ambiguous thoughts on aging, life and spirituality. “You finally caught that roadrunner and blew him up/I finally got it through my thick cranium,” stumbles Lacey through a clunky swoon.
I may differ from most here, but this song drives me nuts. The melody is weak, the guitar is a bore, and the lyrics do that thing where he uses Biblical imagery in an ambiguous way that’s suppose to be deep but really doesn’t make sense or follow any rational line of thought.
You gonna cast me away into outer darkness
’cause I couldn’t cover rent to stay at God’s apartment?
I got a shovel and even though I’ve hit paydirt
I’m really just happy to have gotten the work
If you could be the wind then I would be a leaf
Because I’m finished with these pliers
Sick of pulling my teeth.
In “Sealed to Me,” Jesse Lacey sounds like a guy who hasn’t written songs in a long time (an observation made by a friend of mine). Maybe he’s lost the magic for new material. Maybe I’m overreacting.
- Better than: “Untitled”
- Wants to be: Deep
- Ends up being: Embarrassing
- Grade: D+
Leaked Demos 2006 – EP (2016)
I’m glad these demos exist in mastered form. I’m also glad BN lets fans set their own price for the digital files. That is a classy move. And the cassette tape was a cool idea for collectors. All of this is fine. Except for one thing. THIS ISN’T A NEW ALBUM.
Dammit, Brand New. At this point, you are either blatantly procrastinating or are truly the most patient group of artists the world has ever known. Probably both.
- Better than: The second half of Daisy
- Wants to be: Older Brand New
- Ends up being: Older Brand New
- Grade: Pass
I Am A Nightmare – Single (2016)
A new song! Hey okay. Alright. I can, I can deal with this. It’s not particularly earth shattering, or anything, but “I Am A Nightmare” is a new studio song and it’s much better than “Sealed to Me.”
Lyrically, the song is super intriguing. There’s more ambiguous, Biblical imagery, of course, but it works better here. “I want to throw up snakes,” might be one of the coolest lines in all of BN, if not modern rock music. And, “So come shake your zen out/And give me pure energy/My heart is glowing florescent/I want you to possess it,” is not going to win any awards, but it sure is fun. Ultimately, that’s what’s great about this track: Brand New is having fun again.
The lead guitar leaves something to be desired (thanks again, Vin), though I must admit the five-note lick has grown on me since the track’s initial release.
Production wise, “Nightmare” lacks the sort of depth that we have come to expect from a BN studio track; it’s surprisingly straightforward and thin. And if — like “Mene” — “I Am A Nightmare” is the only new song for a long time, fans may categorize it as another underwhelming and unsuccessful attempt for BN to reestablish themselves in the ‘10s.
But hey, the good news is that BN is back in the pop-rock business. They’re having fun and that’s a good thing. Let’s enjoy it while we have it.
- Better than: Daisy, “Mene,” “Sealed to Me,”
- Wants to be: Your friend
- Ends up being: Your acquaintance
- Grade: B
3 Demos, Reworked – EP (2016)
Brand New, I love you and I never doubted you!
Released just last week, these three reworked demos from 2006 (packaged with their original versions to make a new, six-song EP) are solid. “Missing You,” “1996,” and “Brother’s Song” comprise the EP, and I’ve since returned to them again and again, like some infected scratch.
Out of the nine original demos BN could’ve reworked, I wouldn’t have chosen “Brother’s Song.” It’s sappy, sentimental and rhymes “lying” with “lions.” That said, the tune works here. Vocally the song’s tightened and the band fills the space, creating much needed atmosphere. It’s still not a perfect song, by any means, but at least now it’s a pretty one.
In fact, they’ve done good work all around, breathing new life into all three tunes. “1996” sounds killer. Jesse’s added some nuanced changes to the vocal melody and Vin’s guitar is bright and perfect. And I loooooove the new outro. Not to overreact, but I’d go so far as to place the new “1996” into my top ten list of BN songs. “Missing You” has always been one of the strongest demos and a personal favorite (remember dark lyrics and catchy choruses?). The new bridge in “Missing You” sounds straight out of Devil and God, and gives me hope for BN’s future. And the new outro, much like “1996,” is killer. It drives us towards a cliff and leaves us on the edge.
Finally these songs feel complete and you know what? They better be. Because as good as the EP is, IT STILL ISN’T A NEW ALBUM. I’m ready for BN to move forward into new territory.
- Better than: Anything past Daisy including Daisy
- Wants to be: old Brand New
- Ends up being: new Brand New
- Grade: A-
All the Brand News Are Raging Inside Me
If you add it all up and put it together, there’s a pretty killer playlist of new stuff — an EP if you will: “Mene,” “I Am A Nightmare,” “1996,” “Missing You” and “Brother’s Song.” In fact, play them all together and you’d be surprised to see how well they all fit.
Maybe we already have half of the new album.
Will there really be a new album?
After Daisy, should I really still care?
A friend of mine, a fellow Brand Nuisance, believes that there will never be a new Brand New album. Ever. Maybe more singles, b-sides. Whatever new and creative ways they can think of to take our money. “Until we wise up and leave them,” she says.
She bought a ticket to this summer’s tour — as did I — because there was a press release earlier in the year suggesting a new album would release sometime in 2016. Here we are in July and we see them next week.
No new album. We both feel duped and the feeling is familiar.
I will always love this band. I first heard them on Fuse TV at 2 in the morning back in 2001. We have history (I’m sure you do as well). They were the chosen ones! And they squandered it. So who are they now?
I used to think Brand New would become the new Radiohead:
Ambitious, private, genre-bending, forward-looking.
But now I see them for what they are:
Talented, rare, inconsistent, backward-looking.
That’s right, folks. Brand New is the new Weezer.