Science Fiction fell from the sky and appeared out of nowhere in typical Brand New fashion. A pre-order for a limited vinyl version of a fifth album, mysterious CD deliveries to fans, and a 6o minute track all lead to a real-deal pre-order and announcement of, yes, it’s true, the first Brand New record since 2008’s Daisy.
For a long time the release of a new Brand New record seemed at times unlikely, but then the band released “Mene” on their website followed by “I Am A Nightmare” and live videos of a track speculatively titled “Sealed To Me.” It felt like it was all finally happening, and with news of the band potentially calling it quits in 2018, this was sure to be the big one. But then the band made a statement that the music they were working on wasn’t ready and, no, they wouldn’t be releasing a new record in 2016. So we waited…
Well, the wait is over, and we have been blessed with one of the bands best, if not the best release, and if it is the last one, it’s a damn good way to say goodbye.
I think a solid album is one that I can put on and not have to skip over a track. Brand New has delivered a pleasing album from front-to-back, unleashing a formula that has served them well for almost 18 years, and they’re really dialing in on the finer points.
Science Fiction is overwhelming, emotional, and has completely smashed all expectations, which isn’t hard to fathom from a band whose every output has outshined the last. This is a record that will give something fresh and exciting with each new listen. Its instrumentation is layered, the vocal melodies are perfection, and the production is that of a band who has been working towards a release like this their entire career.
Science Fiction is both explosive and loud, and other times, quiet and somber. It opens and closes with two of Brand New’s quietest and longest tracks, “Lit Me Up” and “Batter Up” respectively. The opener borders on the edge of monstrous Brand New style chorus runs but never gets above a conversational tone. The closer is a chilling take on life’s struggles, a slow burn continued from “Could Never Be Heaven,” an acoustic strummer throughout, an aspect to this record that truly shines.
The presence of acoustic strumming can be heard in most songs on the record and it’s a refreshing addition to the mix of eerie interludes, spoken word bits, and arguably some of the bands heaviest tracks to date. For instance, “137,” which builds from a low mutter into an unhinged guitar ending, soaring with some of Lacey and Accardi’s most intense guitar work, and “Same Logic,” which transitions from an acoustic and bass-driven intro into a heavy electronic sounding breakdown along with Lacey’s first real scream session on the album.
Lyrically, Lacey battles what may be familiar topics like being overwhelmed with anxieties and how that can feel all-consuming. On the opener “Lit me Up” Lacey sings, “It lit me up and I burn from the inside out, yeah I burn like a witch in a Puritan town.” Self-annihilation and biblical themes are also touched on in “137” in the lines, “Let’s all go play Nagasaki, We can all get vaporized, Hold my hand, Let’s turn to ash, I’ll see you on the other side.” Though, nothing seems more hopeless than on the album’s closer “Batter Up,” the be all, end all for life’s struggles. “It’s never going to stop, Batter up.”
But intertwined between Lacey’s struggles, Science Fiction is filled with reminders and appreciation like on “Could Never Be Heaven” taking on a hauntingly beautiful love song vibe. The outro to “Out Of Mana” could be compared to a home recording, mixing into its production something personal and intimate, but none more so than the album’s second track, “Can’t Get It Out.” It’s an honest and inward look at oneself with complete vulnerability. We hear the deepest self-reflection in the form of lines like, “Not just a manic depressive, Toting around my own crown, I’ve got a positive message, Sometimes I can’t get it out.”
However, it’s not the lyrical content (which is great) or the song writing (equally incredible) that makes Science Fiction so good; what makes the record an exciting listen is the ability to hear the growth the band has gone through over the years. Only one other name comes to mind when I think of a band that has taken such great leaps from one record to another, and that’s Radiohead. Both Radiohead and Brand New have each created albums that have consistently changed and evolved, making experimental and genre-defying work while still remaining essential. From their early emo stage with Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu, to their darker and inner demon revealing masterpiece, The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, to the experimental and underrated, Daisy, Brand New have always done it their way and on their terms. Science Fiction is just that, a record that will undoubtedly continue to deliver, unfolding with each listen and will leave fans pondering over for the foreseeable future. As they created and released records their way, ending it all with Science Fiction only seems right.