Not much in pop-culture can produce enough long-standing hype to reach mythical status. Off the top of my head, the most notable example is a video game, “Half-Life 3,” which never came to fruition due to a multitude of reasons and has become such a legendary disappointment that even people who have never played the games have heard about the disaster. For some time, Brand New’s fifth LP looked as though it was going to face a similar fate.
After their last release some eight years ago, the band took a hiatus until 2014 when they announced the beginning of recording for their next LP. After several delays, a single and an EP — the fabled “Science Fiction” album has finally become fact, bringing with it the harsh truth of the band’s not-too-distant retirement. “Science Fiction” explores some of the struggles the band has gone through, specifically Frontman Jesse Lacey, fighting through writer’s block and playing the part of prophetic figurehead for zealous fans looking for the next “Deja Vu” or “Raging Inside.” Brand New feels as though it has run its course and has left us with a worthy deathrattle to echo the band’s legacy.
“Science Fiction” is not like any other Brand New LP we’ve heard before. The most important distinction, the reserved and moody vocal delivery, makes Lacey’s depressing worldview even more bleak and apocalyptic. The album opens with a tape recording from a therapy session where a woman “recounting her dream” explains her relationship with her mental illness. Lacey explores the freeing feeling of learning to cope with who your are, our own ailments and lighting up the darkest part of the human condition like a “rag soaked in gasoline in the neck of a bottle.”
Lacey jumps from the introspective to the existential frequently, layering droning guitars through a touch of analogue delay and feedback during the more disturbing and climatic moments. The tracks “Same Logic/Teeth” and “137” illustrates this dance between ideas and sound.
“Same Logic/Teeth” builds momentum through each agonizing cry of the guitar creating a glittery sound like each pluck imitates a drone shooting across the night’s sky. Lacey is diagnosing his current coping strategies for his personality disorder as toxic to those around him. He feels guilty for his inability of controlling himself and relying on therapy or substances for clarity. “Same Logic” invites the listener into Lacey’s psyche. “137” turns the listener around let’s you stare out Lacey’s eyes across the desolation.
“137” critiques the idea of mutually-assured destruction and explains it as a cruel “inside joke” between God and the atom. At it’s worst, the theme of the song is done to death but at it’s best it’s a clever allusion to the philosophical discussion. Lacey is trying to garner understanding of man’s own ability for self-destruction, much like how he is trying to understand his own self-destructive behavior. Lyrically his references can be blunt like when he sings, “Lets all go play Nagasaki,” but beneath the chorus is a pentatonic scale commonly used by Japanese folk artists called the Min’yo-scale or the “nuclear tones.” Lacey pays tribute to those who lost their lives in nuclear attack on Nagasaki by employing their art in a thoughtful way.
“Science Fiction” has an expert grasp of song structure and theme throughout, adding in a tasteful variety of instruments like groaning synth lines, haunting wind-chimes, a bluesy harmonica and gospel organ. What holds this album back is Lacey’s overly mellow vocal delivery. Overall, I think his reserved style is a healthy change-in-pace but on “Waste,” Lacey’s already somewhat generic singing voice bores me to death in combination of the tracks slow pace, hurting the flow of the album.
There’s not a single track on the album to hate but the occasional dull moment like on “Waste” can crawl in. “Science Fiction” provides a satisfying end to the band’s career, if it really is the end. I rate this album as a 7.6 out of 10.
|What I’m looking for.||Score (0-10)||Examples of Scoring|
|Innovation||4||10- Creates entire genre.
8- Creates a new niche or sub-genre
6-pushes current genres limits
4- pushes their own limits
|Uniqueness (of either artist or album)||6||10-Never before seen (has influences still)
8-More than 3 unique qualities including sound, person, story, ect.
6- 2 unique qualities
4-1 unique qualities
2-Lowest possible score because everyone is unique :^)
|Artist’s technical ability||9|
|Production||10||10- Perfect Balance
5- Over-produced more than not (or even under produced)
0- Sounds horrible
|Theme||7||10-powerful theme throughout
5-theme but kinda sucks
0-no theme or organization
|Length/Flow of Album||7||10-Songs reinforce each other, album isn’t hard to listen to, and the transitions are smooth/appropriate
5- 2 of those thing
0-none of these things
|Longevity||7||How relevant will it be in 5, 10, 25 years.|
|Personal Enjoyment||8||10-peak enjoyment
1-Couldn’t hate album more