Preview: Jesse Lacey

Brand New, regardless of how you feel about them, elite hipster, are notable inasmuch as they’ve consistently tried to reinvent themselves from album to album, generally motivated by a desire to rise above the largely generic lump sum of pop-punk that they’re frequently pooled with. Tonight the band’s enigmatic frontman Jesse Lacey plays the Picador as the last date of his solo tour before reconvening with his band to play this weekend’s Lollapalooza festival in Chicago. If you’ve followed Brand New, you’re probably not much older than me - mid 20s means that the band’s 2001 debut Your Favourite Weapon hit at just the right time. That record provided many a soundtrack for post-adolescent drama with power chord heavy riffs and a caustic take on the world of relationships. Brand New was born out of a burgeoning Long Island punk/hardcore scene and at the time there were scores of bands across the country discovering Lifetime and NoFX while embracing a more sensitive side of things. Brand New’s lyrics set them in a class amongst themselves by combining the personal realism of emo - “It’s 8:45 / the weather’s getting better by the hour / I hope it rains there all the time” - with poetic grace. At times they achieved pop gold - that breakdown on “The Shower Scene” still kills me - but I think this record is more remembered for its acoustic tracks. “Mix Tape” is a bitterly epic break-up song, while “Soco Amaretto Lime” provides the drunken nostalgia that captures a palpable feeling of being 18.

Determined not to be the next boring thing, Brand New returned with 2003’s Deja Entendu, a much darker effort that turned introspective, with Lacey alternating between self-deprecating wit and ego-maniacism. Lacey was clearly disturbed by the direction of his band’s fame and grappling with that which comes with it. Certain lines - such as “I hope this song starts a craze / The kind of song that ignites the airwaves” - could be misconstrued as Lacey letting fame get the best of him. But the overarching, sarcastic bent of the album reveals a man as scared of his recognition as he is validated by it. Nonetheless, the album was largely well-received, and Brand New toured relentlessly in support of it. When it came time to create their third LP, the band retreated to Oxford, Mississippi to hole up and reinvent themselves. Three years in the making, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me shed the lengthy, humorous lyricism and refocused their effort on creating much darker, heavier, and instrumentally structured songs. The songs are slightly lacking in their content; Lacey’s strength is obviously his ability to spin verbose critiques of both himself and the way his world interacts with him. But this is undoubtedly their most musically accomplished effort to date.

The fourth Brand New record is purportedly 2/3 done and some of this material will likely be on display at the Picador. Whether or not he’ll play the older classics such as “Mix Tape” remains to be seen. On one hand, it almost seems unfathomable to think these songs would be absent from an acoustic set. But, Lacey the man has never been predictable, so you’ll have to be there to find out.

Doors: 9pm
Tickets: $12
Brian Bonz, Kevin Devine open

Download: Brand New - Mix Tape

Download: Brand New - Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t

Download: Brand New - Sowing Season

About the Author


Todd is a transplant from the East Coast who came to Iowa City to live life, love music, and enjoy cheap beer. In addition to working on Mission Freak and Mission Creek Festival, he writes semi-regularly for Tiny Mix Tapes and Daytrotter and books music and other events at local non-profit venue Public Space ONE.

One Response to “ Preview: Jesse Lacey ”

  1. Nice blog entry and very well written. Brand New rocks.