7 Years 10 Months 26 Days…. That is a long time for any fan of any band to wait for a new album. (Tool fans don’t count because Tool sucks.)
Brand New – in all their mystery, ambiguity, press dodging and disdain for fame – have had a long time to write, demo, record and release new music. So, the natural question on everyone’s mind is, “What took so long?!?!?”
Fans have every right to ask that question. We may never know. What we do know is that their 5th LP is here, and for me at *first listen; the only word that came to my mind was… uninspired.
I know. Its BRAND NEW!
They blew up the emo scene with the post-punk rocker Your Favorite Weapon, shocked indie-emo pop-rock with the diverseness of Deja Entendu, the taboo spiritual darkness in The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, and the brooding cryptic psychotic lyrics penned for Daisy… all are respectively classic albums.
Their singles “Mene” (2015) and “I Am A Nightmare” (2016) even had that edge to them that promised their future recordings would be something to behold.
Maybe they are. Maybe I am wrong? But, I just don’t know if it is computing with me. Me; a fan since 2002. Is it better than what I heard? I suppose I should take a closer look, since that is what Brand New almost forces the listener to do. Don’t just listen. Take a trip into the mind of Jesse Lacey, and see where that leads… I mean, after all this time, I owe that to myself, right?
Science Fiction – August 17th, 2017
- “Lit Me Up”
- “Can’t Get It Out”
- “Same Logic/Teeth”
- “Could Never Be Heaven”
- “Out of Mana”
- “In the Water”
- “No Control”
- “Batter Up”
Any avid fan should know better than to just listen once and critique, right?
Especially since this is the first real body of content we have been given from Brand New in almost 8 years.
One more note before I get to the music: We could delve into all the conspiracy theories, imagery, and mysteries that come along with Science Fiction and Brand New folklore, but … this review is about the songs.
And frankly, I don’t want to clog up an album review with reddit user’s quotes and speculative thoughts about dark messages that seem to give hope; or end up nowhere.
“Lit Me Up” is, for all intents and purposes the opening track that starts this whole odyssey off, shrouded in mystery and ambient fog. The vocals are somewhat indistinguishable, set to a spacey and moody guitar melody. It has the weight that any band would hope an opening track to have. Although simple in it’s musicianship, it cuts to the core of whatever it is that Brand New are trying to make you feel. That is different for everyone who intently listens to them.
When we begin to wrap our head around the idea that this anomaly of a band is constantly messing with us, we see and hear the music in a different and light and tone. This song is of course haunting and melancholy, but also (lazily) interesting enough to keep your attention to the end. Especially because of the eerie recording that kicks off this whole thing.
Much like an episode of the Twilight Zone.
“Can’t Get It Out” has that element of promise rhythmically, but at the same time, doesn’t seem to culminate. Although, albeit very simple, it is a good song. The chorus has an emo edge to it.
Expectations may not be blown away yet, but so far Science Fiction has a careened quality that Brand New has earned from maturing as individuals, and never (they are the best at this) ever caring about what critics say!
Then, satisfyingly enough, the track ends up with Lacey holding longer notes to the proper pairing of the rhythm guitar, and it blends into a very familiar sound to those who know.
On “Waste” we hear a song that sounds like it could have been lifted from any modern indie folk-rock album. But, this is Brand New, and Jesse Lacey has the single power to turn any more or less ordinary tune into something that shines. It dips into an atmospheric haunt, and then quells back into that mid-tempo slide. It is really a beautiful song, and conveys that simplicity is a very effective weapon in this band’s arsenal.
“Same Logic/Teeth” has a simple acoustic strum, and Lacey’s voice again acts as the fifth instrument that brings this track to life and gives it that signature Brand New mood we were introduced to in 2006. At 2 minutes in, we have our first heavy part and a few angry screams! It is fantastic and the stream of vocals portrays something different; especially that funny, cartoon-ish part about fish and judgment! Again, Brand New proving that they do not need to remake Daisy to keep our attention! Rather build off of it’s strength and grow.
“Could Never Be Heaven” without you’ – this one is a dream-like tune in which we hear honest lyrics delivered in a softness, to a lightly picked strum. It will put you to sleep and make you think deep, all at once. I suppose this song seems likes a solo project, but it fits all too perfectly on this record. Lacey’s voice is so soft and moody on this one, opening us up to a different level of his talent; touched upon in “Play Crack The Sky.”
“137” starts off much the same way as earlier tracks. Somber and dark, full of a droning melancholy mood. The percussion is slow and lifts the simple guitar notes up.
“Lets all go play Nagasaki,
we can all get vaporized,
hold my hand, let’s turn to ash”
With lyrics like this, your ears and mind take many different turns, and this listening adventure gets even more visceral. Taking a look into the lyricist’s mind may be NSFW, but it definitely provokes a very full experience. This song carries a dark and depressing quality that reminds of the soundscapes of their two previous works, set to a much slower song. Absolutely brilliant. Lead guitarist Vincent Accardi just slays on this one like a mad hurricane!
“Out of Mana” – the 7th track – takes us deeper into what Jesse Lacey struggles with and how he perceives life, perhaps via the digital world(?).
“First write down all of your fears
Then sweep the feathers you’ve preened
Next you should dominate
All the quests everyone said were too hard
Unless you go back to sleep
Don’t run out of mana
Or we’ll back down
I want you to know
If you feel ready to go
I can read the rest to myself
Hell is digital
You’ve smashed to smithereens”
Perhaps interpreting these lyrics is a futile exercise, but at least on the surface, there is a lot to digest. The mood continues on…
…and as “In The Water” begins, it broods with somber vocal tones, and the lyrics conjure an image of a river baptism; the attendants reveling in the religious experience. This is something that Jesse Lacey does all too well; creates an image in our minds with words penned together so eloquently and poetically, that a movie set to their genius soundtrack plays out in your head. Sinks into your heart, and covers you in a huge blanket of warmth and discomfort. Beautiful!
*So, at this point through Science Fiction, I realize that I was very wrong about thinking this album was “uninspired.” In fact, the complete opposite is true…
“Desert” seems to be a satirical take on uber-conservative thinking, and those who are preparing for end times. Musically it continues the mood already set, and with it’s groovy picked guitar, the chorus lights up a little bit with some chanted repeated vocals:
“Don’t come running to me when they’re coming for you
(Don’t come running to me when they’re coming for you)”
Overall, it really is a very cool song that I think most fans will dig. Maybe different for Brand New, but it works.
On “No Control” we are again hearing a song that is simple and uncomplicated, yet stark and easy to listen to. It seems like it would fit well on Deja Entendu, but obviously works well here.
After a cut out, the last minute of the song is a small taste of faster rock and roll that sounds like an old demo, and then that breaks into some cryptic nonsensical talking/laughing…?
“451” is groovy and sped up a bit. The guitar shimmers in the background, and the chorus breaks into a Muse-like lit up banger. For the 11th track, it is nice to have a song that rocks a bit more. I could see this one being a single, but if Brand New treat this album cycle like their past, we may see no music videos or push for radio play?
The final song is “Batter Up” and we are truly getting a proper ending…
“In the valley of your slowly-fading memory
All the pastures, bathed in sun and sunlight where you won’t graze
Paths you won’t take?
Spin around now
Can you hear me?
Am I still buzzing in my sleep?
What does it feel like to shine between everything?
It’s never going to stop
Give me your best shot
These words will be speculated over I am sure. I believe it is an ending, but some will see reason to believe that more is to come from Brand New.
I can definitely see them staying true to their self proclaimed break-up, set to take place in 2018, but, at the very least, we got this gem of an album!
Science Fiction actually transcends whatever we were expecting to hear from a 2017 Brand New!
In the age of so many washed up bands trying to survive on re-hashed sounds and riffs, Brand New comes out of nowhere with a fantastic collection of songs that show maturity and honesty. They may not sparkle with glitter and hope, or be radio singles; but Science Fiction is true and right.
It actually washes away the fact that it took them almost a decade to give us a new album. It is that well done. From the production quality to the lyrical references to their past and Jesse’s demons; it is all there.
If you ‘get’ Brand New, you will most likely absolutely love this record. If you think that everything they do should be a remake of “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows,” then stay there. They moved on, and brilliantly so! And for those of us who have grown with them, this caps it all off. 7 years or 2 years, who cares.
We have brand new Brand New! Love it.
Rating: 6/5 – Contender for the 2017 AOTY!
This Canadian grew up in the great state of Montana, so naturally punk and hardcore music served as a proper soundtrack to his early life. Now living in the arctic tundra he enjoys vinyl collecting, bearding, Canadian brew and long walks on the beach he makes up in his mind.