It’s been eight years since Brand New released their last album ‘Daisy’ and personally, I’ve been one of those fan boys who’s been counting the hours for the faintest bit of news related to the release of a new Brand New record. So when I woke up one morning to a news feed full of headlines like “BRAND NEW RELEASE “SUPRISE ALBUM” I nearly shat myself in excitement.
But now that the day has finally come and Brand New’s fifth studio album ‘Science Fiction’ is actually here, I’m slightly hesitant to listen to it. Mostly because I’m a little afraid of what the best part of a decade might do to the sound of one of my favourite bands, but also because I have a sneaking suspicion that this album may be a misunderstood masterpiece. In which case I would be sentenced to spend the rest of my days converting people to their “new sound” like we went through between ‘Deja Enetendu’ and ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me’.
But let’s face it. I’m not crazy. I’m not actually not going to listen to it and especially after reading that Billboard is still using the word “emo” to describe the band followed closely by the words “Beyonce”, I believe it has now become my duty to add some sense to this matter.
Following on thematically from their last release ‘Daisy’, ‘Science Fiction’ introduces itself again with another sample this time around featuring an elderly lady verbalizing her dreams from a psychiatrist’s chair. If you are at all familiar with the track ‘Vices’, this sample in the opening track ‘Lit Me Up’ sets you up to have your head blown off to an aggressive guitar riff. In contrast, however, you a greeted with a quiet pulsating wobble of a synth, the click of a stick and a bass.
As Jesse Lacey begins to sing, the song builds, the guitars come in and you feel like your instantly right back to where you were 8 years ago, but this time the texture feels different. Maybe it’s because of the synth playing a melodic line underneath, that I can’t recall ever hearing in a Brand New track, or maybe because of the anticipation of whats to come but either way it sets the record up nicely for the next 11 tracks that span across an hour.
‘Can’t Get It Out’ the second track on the record surprised me right off the bat with an acoustic guitar and whistling melody that I wasn’t expecting at all. But, I must admit even though this song does follow their classic soft/loud structure that I love, the chorus was more of an anti-climax losing than anything else losing all its energy and sounding more like a pop-punk song off ‘Your Favorite Weapon’ than a natural progression from ‘Daisy’. But maybe the band needed to look back into their past to look forward to the rest of the record.
It’s worth noting at this point in the story the secret weapon that even after a weaker second track still gives me absolute confidence that this record will be worth the wait. There is an unsung hero behind Brand New who in my mind is essentially what Nigel Godrich is to Radiohead. That person comes in the form of producer Mike Sapone. Having worked with the band on every record since the bands inception, there is essentially no other person on the planet you can trust more in understanding the bands creative vision, executing on that vision and pushing the record to be something more (and a little heads up, ‘Science Fiction’ far exceeded my expectations). Brand New’s iconic sound is Sapone and if this is a record for Brand New to deliver on, this is also one of the biggest records for Sapone to deliver on too.
‘Waste’ is essentially proof of that theory providing everything that ‘Can’t Get It Out’ doesn’t and more. Building beautifully from an acoustic guitar and a snare, each repetition of the verse gets steadily more aggressive with the layering new textures including strings and teases you for that expected climax of heavy guitar riffs. That climax does come, but not as expected… The difference with this climax seems to be a common occurrence throughout the album as well because where ‘Daisy’ or “TDAGRIM’ might place emphasis on the aggressiveness of the guitars in the mix, ‘Science Fiction’ opts to set these aspects back creating a more even balance overall and allowing for the more melodic ideas to cut through.
Now although it has been fun going track by track I am going to leave you to experience the rest of the record for yourself because after having 8 years off and understanding that this album could potentially be their last, the second half of this record is where I think Brand New has done some of their greatest work to date. Maintaining their own sonic sound and structures the rest of the album feels like a real step forward from their previous records and in a way an ode to some of their own influences and heroes. Tracks like ‘Out of Mana’ feel like the guitar riffs and solos are giving a salute to Kirk Hammett and Sound Garden, while tracks like ‘No Control’ feel like it’s channelling Nirvana. The instrumentation is more diverse than ever, with mandolin, strings and horns at all different intervals throughout while their genre even skips between Blues to Rock to Country and back again.
Although this album has taken 8 years, I think it has really delivered something meaningful and constructive to their already classic back catalog taking everything that was great about the Brand New of 2009 and going back over it with a fine toothed comb to deliver something both new and exciting while keeping the essence of what makes this band great alive. If you’re a fan of Brand New already then I can’t see how you could not like ‘Science Fiction’ and if you’re not a fan of Brand New, then this might just be the one to get you there.
I really hope that this isn’t the last from these boys but If this album is truly their final goodbye, then ‘Science Fiction’ has been an absolute credit to the band capping off their careers at a milestone high.
How It Stacks Up
9 / 10
Same Logic / Teeth
Out Of Manna
Follow: Brand New
Label: Procrastinate! Music Traitors