Long Island based alt/emo/pop/rock band Brand New are back in the lake of relevancy with the release of their ghastly 5th and final album “Science Fiction”.
Releasing this album was a big surprise for fans, as they were rumoured to put out an album in both 2015 and 2016, with a few single releases teasing the idea, and the band hadn’t released a full length since 2009’s “Daisy”. Because that album had much more mature and darker tones than the rest of the discography, it was hard to imagine (for me anyway), where they would go next sonically, as Brand New have always seemed to evolve their sound from record to record, starting with a completely pop-punk sound in their debut “Your Favourite Weapon” to the aggresive, hard hitting “Daisy” that has a post-punk vibe, with plenty of screaming vocals from frontman Jesse Lacey. I was introduced to Brand New from a friend of mine that showed me the song “Sic Transit…Gloria Fades” , I remember how intriuged I was with how unique the vocal delivery in that song was, mixed with the super catchy, driving bass line throughout the track. Naturally, I checked out the rest of their music and was hooked, with their classic albums “The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me” & “Deja Entendu”, I quickly realized how important these guys were for the progression of emo music. Needless to say, I was incredibly stoked to check out their final project and take it all in for the piece of art that it is.
“Science Fiction” starts you off in complete mystery and darkness, the song “Lit Me Up” has 2 minutes of what sounds to be hospital ambience, with a therapist talking to her patient (this happens numerous times throughout the album, seems to be the theme of the album), and somewhere around the 2 minute mark Jesse Lacey’s starts singing. Lit Me Up is a song about how a therapist can take out the things inside of you that you bottle up but need to release such as trauma and passed experiences that have taken a toll on how you go about life. I really enjoyed the smooth synth, the instrumentals make you feel like you’re right there with this patient in the hospital, feeling what he’s feeling. Great intro to the album.
Jesse seems to display a theme of self-awareness throughout “Science Fiction”, as he discusses the relationship he has with Brand New, and how it has been affecting his life outside of the band. This theme starts in the song “Can’t Get It Out” which has the band’s classic simple, hard-rock chord progressions, and Jesse’s mournful, painful but compelling voice. Its a song about Jesse’s struggles with writing a new record, and how it affects the people around him in a negative way: “Sometimes I can’t get it out”. Nothing you wouldn’t expect from the band sonically, but its cool to hear Jesse being so personal and introspective on these tracks. Same goes for the following track “Waste” which follows struggles Jesse has to continue playing in Brand New. “Don’t lose hope, my son, this is the last one” could be saying that everything will be better once this last album is released. “Waste” is Jesse having a conversation with himself and his former self, “You and I were stuck in the waste, talking about our salad days, what a damn lie” Talking about how inexperienced he was back when he was writing the initial album “Your Favourite Weapon”, and how much things have changed since that record. I think this is a really interesting way to end a band’s discography, by actually discussing the reasons for the split in song format.
We get to a folk-influenced, acoustic hymn “Could Never Be Heaven” which alludes to ideas in their album “The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Of Me” with lyrics in that album discussing the same idea of: “could never be heaven without you”. “they say in heaven there’s no husbands and wives”. A nice acoustic piece sandwiched in between the album. Following is the single “Same Logic / Teeth” which features some of Jesse’s most passionate vocals to date, as he screams at the top of his lungs throughout this track. The song deals with alarmingly honest themes of self-harm and self-loathing, as Jesse explores coping methods for severe mental illness. Definitely one of my favourites on the album, as it delivers everything you’ve come to expect from the band, but manages to be a breath of fresh air as well.
137 is an incredibly eerie song, that gives you shivers from the get-go with its very haunting guitars, it reminded me a lot of Tool’s song “Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman)” which is also set in a hospital environment, with a doctor talking to a patient. “137” refers to the radioactive isotope Caesium-137, which is a substance that had been introduced to nature after the first nuclear detonation. The song itself leaves a great message for mankind, and our carelessness with the power we hold in nuclear weapons, and how unnecessary it is for us to have these destructive capabilities.
I’m not going to go over the rest of these songs, because by now you probably understand the concept of the album, its a send-off for the band, and you can tell that they wanted this album to sound similar to their other projects, as a way of concluding their mark in music’s history. It is clear that Jesse has had enough of the musician life and is ready to continue on to new, different aspects of life. I think that’s great, and this album really tells his story of battling with creativity and the pressure of fans waiting for a new album really well. At times on this album, the depressing tones on this album can get a bit heavy and redundant, and can leave you with an unpleasant vibe, guess that’s the point, but it can be a bit much when trying to get through the album. This definitely isn’t Brand New’s best work, but it will definitely fit snug in their legendary, cult-classic discography…here’s to an end of an era, thanks for all the beautiful music guys!