• The Times Review

    Jan 25 2010, 12h17

    Sat 23 Jan – Brand New, Thrice, Glassjaw

    Source: Times Online Live Reviews

    How does a band with a profile lower than an indie-kid’s trousers get to headline Wembley Arena? For Brand New, such unlikely success has been achieved by judicious playing of both the long game and the cult card.

    The group, which convened in Long Island, New York, ten years ago, finally broke into the US Top Ten last year with their fourth album, Daisy. In Britain the same album barely brushed the Top 50. But big record sales are not the key indicator when it comes to bands such as Brand New, whose popularity is better defined by the solemn, unwavering and biblical commitment of their fans.

    At Wembley these hardcore souls were packed on to the floor in an unholy crush as the musicians wandered on in complete darkness. Without so much as a murmur the band began playing an instrumental passage, an overture if you like, that built into a torrent of guitar noise, accompanied by a storm of flashing white lights.

    Jesse Lacey, the singer and key songwriter, was a nondescript chap in checked shirt, jeans and workboots . One minute he was caressing Degausser — a slow, doomy ode to an endless, sleepless night — in a rather appealing croon. Then he launched into a bloodcurdling, primal shriek of hysterical desperation. “Life is a test and I get bad marks,” he insisted. You could certainly see how he would be one of the more challenging students.

    Lacey, however, has a way with words. Songs about shipwrecks, car crashes, nightmares, death and general dismay were mapped out in extended chunks of free-flowing narrative poetry. For long spells the band played with a mysterious, otherworldly sense of the unexpected — rather as if Radiohead had decided to be an band. Then, during songs such as The Archers Bows Have Broken and Jude Law and a Semester Abroad, the group would break into pop-punk choruses, that sailed along as agreeably as anything by Green Day.

    It ended with Lacey alone, head down, strumming and singing in a desolate drawl of yet more bodies washed up on the beach. Arena-rock has suddenly gained a peculiarly fraught and rigorous stripe.