It’s taken me a while to capture my thoughts on the tracks within this album, as a fan of the band I was clamoring for any new material and as such my fan boy side took over on my first few playthroughs. Not to say that the album is bad; far from it. I just needed to separate the fan from the critic.
Is Science Fiction the album of the year? No. Is it even the best album that Brand New have released? I don’t think so. But is it an album that we need and that everyone should listen to? Most definitely.
Whilst Brand New have an incredibly devout fan base it’s safe to say that they put them through the ringer in terms of new content. It’s been eight years since the Long Island based band released their last studio album Daisy, the gap between consisting of the occasional single but more notably their public whisperings of disbanding. After rumours of the elusive 5LP trickled through social media it became apparent that the band are well and good. Albeit, hurting. Science Fiction is a raw album. The band are no stranger to ballads of grief and turmoil but this new release shows front man Jesse Lacey at his most vulnerable yet.
Opening track ‘Lit Me Up’ sets the tone of the bands new direction. Opening with pre-recorded audio focusing on the effects of nightmares on the psyche a synth driven slide riff depicts a sense of dread. It’s apparent that Jesse is hurt as he croons, “Don’t cut me up and tell me that it’s ok”, it sounds as if the band are exploring therapy and how they’re struggling with their identity. The complexity of being famous yet still people.
This theme is carried over into the next track ‘Can’t Get It Out’, a song that details the exhaustion of the creative process and how it wears the creator out. Jesse and the band had been stuck in the limbo of the writing process for this long awaited release until the point that they got their “messiah impression” down and were able to be comfortable with overcoming their obstacles as creative with such pressure on them.
The album unfolds as an exploration of a tortured artist trying to come to terms with a changing audience and music scene. It sounds cliché and it is but the technical ability on show by the rest of the band elevates Jesse’s clichéd yet captivating lyrics and vocal range. The wailing wall of lead guitar by Vincent Accardi adds a backdrop to the lyrical misery, setting the scene for the 12-track narrative. Percussion wise the tracks do lack a bit, with strings taking the spotlight.
The track ‘Same Logic / Teeth’ is a standout and must listen out of the new material the band have put forth. Thematically it follows the same structure of self-loathing and the pressure of pleasing a fandom but structurally it’s an epic. It’s a track that builds slowly from a simple acoustic chord progression into a fairly muted chorus before Jesse and co let loose into a tirade of angst. As if that wasn’t enough the last segment of said track takes a lo-fi turn that echoes back to the earlier days of the band.
Brand New are a consistent bad and I’ll applaud them for not losing their edge but the lack of variation found in Science Fiction is a detriment at times. The songs are hard-hitting and as emotive as ever but surely a band of such magnitude could do with some growth. Science Fiction is a great addition to a strong discography but I think that they can’t rely on their earlier successes to stay current as a band. The genre that they helped define is being reborn by a litany of newer bands that offer a little more variation. It’s great to have Brand New back again but heres hoping for some more experimental content in the future.
SCIENCE FICTION by BRAND NEW is out now via Procrastinate! Music Traitors.