Brand New
Science Fiction


4.5
superb

Review

by ashcrash9 USER (15 Reviews)
August 20th, 2017 | 148 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One more time with feeling.

“I don’t mind having all this going on inside of me. It’s sort of… I think I’m going to be relieved when it’s over. When I can sort of settle back down…”

Artistic legacy can be a tricky thing: you often can’t manipulate it, only present your work and let those who choose to engage with it shape one for you. I don’t think Brand New knew they were going to take off when they were known as The Rookie Lot. I don’t think they knew Deja Entendu or The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me would later become some of the most influential records to an entire next generation of pop punk, emo, and indie rock musicians. We certainly know they didn’t imagine that latter record would leak in an incomplete form of since-reworked demos months before its scheduled release and send the band back to the drawing board.

But this is a different story. After seven years playing things tight-lipped and mysterious - one has to assume by design to avoid repeating that same accident - last year the band hinted they would break up in 2018, leaving their days to return with new material numbered. And when that time came, it came without warning. Was the surprise 500 copy pre-order announcement and subsequent leak a convoluted marketing strategy" Of course, but as this record’s cover and prior quotes would suggest, sometimes you’ve got to take a leap from out the window when it’s way too far to go through the door. Unconventionality has been a substantial part of Brand New’s appeal for a while now. Combined with their relative silence, the band’s enigma had almost superseded them. But disregard the album title for a moment, because Science Fiction isn’t anything alien beneath its eerie instrumentation and soundbite-laden bells and whistles. The unflinching honesty that made many a depressed teen flock to the band in the first place remains front and center, and this time it’s marinated in almost a decade’s worth of pressure and suspense. Fan speculation aside, this is almost surely the Long Island quartet’s swan song, and if it’s not, they’ll be hard-pressed to top it.

I make that claim not only because it's musically a culmination of everything the band has done from Deja onward with additional tricks up its sleeve, but also because it just feels like a final record. The entire weight of the band’s career rides upon it to the point where the eight-year wait and the final product cannot be meaningfully separated. “I want to put my hands to work until the work’s done / I want to open up my heart like the ocean,” frontman Jesse Lacey sings on the dreary, hushed opening cut “Lit Me Up.” It’s a sentiment that continues through nearly all of the album: “Can’t Get It Out” provides its first glance of distortion with an otherwise straightforward, grungy rocker that again calls Lacey’s self-image forward: “I thought I was a creator / I’m here just hanging around / Got my messiah impression / I think I got it nailed down.” Throughout the rest of the record, his doubt may surface in the form of direct reprises to Brand New's past material (“Take your head apart”) or whole tracks about aging such as the stunning ballad “In The Water,” but it’s almost omnipresent, imploring of the audience to understand and empathize with the band’s own tribulations.

That is, it would be if there weren’t a handful of lyrical curveballs throughout the record's middle stretch; “137” breaks the album’s personal character for the first time, but it’s a stunner in spite of that, a haunting number about nuclear destruction whose uncompromising tactile imagery and searing guitar solo evoke dread to a degree that the band has never quite reached. “Desert” too feels like an outlier, a twangy, satirical display of bigotry that seems as if it’s always seconds away from exploding yet remains muted. “451” strikes a better middle ground; its lyrics are ambiguous enough to encourage broad interpretation while its steady, militant, Southern rock march rushes the listener towards the album’s finish line. The lack of evident subject correlations to the rest of the disc may pluck some out of Science Fiction’s headspace, but it isn’t as if the band hasn’t overcome issues like this before; The Devil and God’s back half is a topical hodgepodge, but that doesn’t stop many (myself admittedly included) from claiming the album as a whole a treasure, and this one doesn’t simply ask us to overlook those discrepancies, it makes striking musical highlights out of them.

That’s not to say that the quiet cuts here don’t pack a punch though: the rustic, stripped down, acoustic “Could Never Be Heaven” joins those aforementioned tracks as one of the band’s finest to date, tackling familiar themes of depression with the gut-wrenching twist of how it continues in spite of familial support. “Waste” is a bit noisier but another standout, a lumbering, ominous track that reads like Lacey’s desperate attempt to keep himself motivated after revisiting the same dark places on stage for years on end: “If it’s breaking your heart / If nothing is fun / Don’t lose hope, my son / This is the last one.” And while here the repetition is spine-tingling and the track even begins with a voice demanding something along the lines of “scream into this,” the actual last one, “Batter Up,” is eight minutes of wandering, bittersweet relief. Its hypnotic guitar lines ebb and flow as Lacey wonders what it will feel like to "shine between everything.” And I don’t blame him: as both one individual and the face of one of the 2000's greats, finding purpose outside his craft may not come easy, and he acknowledges that the clouds will never completely clear with one of the finest career-closers I've ever heard: "It's never going to stop / Batter up."

But here and now, the studio discography of Brand New supposedly does, and we can all share in the relief as well that though Science Fiction isn’t necessarily flawless, it’s pretty much all anyone could ask for. From its heart-on-sleeve melodrama to its self-gratifying spoken clips that evade easy explanation, this album lays bare everything people love about Brand New while also bowing out with a delicate mix of progression and refinement. It’s a collection of songs made for us and them in equal measure, and all it asks of us is to listen and exhale in unison.

So gather around one last time for that wonderful and grand ol’ message.

I don’t know about you, but I doubt I’ll get tired of it.



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user ratings (1166)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
ashcrash9
August 20th 2017


2803 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

*whispers* oh no, I did it

I became that guy



but for real, I'm enjoying this a lot and wanted to offer my take on it. Better now than being like, the 30th guy to do this, I suppose. I hope you can enjoy the effort, if nothing else.

kris.
August 20th 2017


14633 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

aw hell yea, time to open the floodgates and get this sucker at least 15 reviews

ianblxdsoe
August 20th 2017


1339 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

there go the floodgates, solid review

ashcrash9
August 20th 2017


2803 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

haha, thanks Ian

it was gonna happen eventually

yours will still probably reign as the most active thread for a long time though

ianblxdsoe
August 20th 2017


1339 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

nah idc about that because once sowing posts his mine is gonna tank anyways so i encourage whoever has something to say to say it yknow

neekafat
August 20th 2017


6022 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great review dude!

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
August 20th 2017


19671 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ayy killer review man nice work, summed up a lot of my thoughts really well

ashcrash9
August 20th 2017


2803 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks, fellas!

at the risk of sounding cocky, I was actually suppressing myself from writing this for a good 48 hours but after my 5th listen I was just like, "fuck it, I know what I wanna say, let's just do this" and I busted the thing out in two drafts over as many hours



I'm really pleased/surprised it came out as well as it did lol

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
August 20th 2017


19671 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yeah reads rly cleanly man! I think you could've maybe talked about the arch of the album itself a bit more, especially how it all comes to a head in the middle of it which wouldve made for an interesting discussion. theres a tonnn to talk about with this album tho so good job on what you hit on

ashcrash9
August 20th 2017


2803 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah, it was really a matter of what to leave off ultimately. Definitely a ton to discuss, too much for any one review to completely cover



some other points that didn't make it which I still wanna throw out there:

- "No Control" is the only song here that feels kinda underwhelming to me, but I didn't wanna dwell on it

- the change-up sample from the preacher to the "SEVEN YEARS. SEVEN YEARS..." at the end of "In the Water" is absolutely terrifying

- "Same Logic/Teeth" and "Out of Mana" are both great too, I was just having trouble trying to find a place to mention them that didn't stretch out any section too much or seem clunky when read aloud, oh well

- Mike Sapone is a perfect fit for this band and this whole record proves it once again. Great range of dynamics.

someguest
August 20th 2017


28859 Comments


"Same Logic/Teeth" is my favorite here. I expected a little more heaviness after Daisy.

Digging: Carpenter Brut - CARPENTERBRUTLIVE

trackbytrackreviews
August 20th 2017


3338 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Same Logic would be the best if not for that voice

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 20th 2017


25033 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

way to steal my opening lyrical quote ; )



nice review though, I agree with a lot of what is said here

Digging: Brand New - Science Fiction

GhostOfSarcasticBtrd
August 20th 2017


5886 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Same Logic would be the best if not for that voice"



If that legit ruined the whole song for you I pity you.

Digging: St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION

Hanusko
August 20th 2017


81 Comments


"Same Logic would be the best if not for that voice"
I actually like that deep voice effect, it adds strange sense of absurdity to the song and the lyrics...tho the song is far from my favorite...137 is by far my favorite from here

Great review man !

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

Flugmorph
August 20th 2017


17436 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

yo i enjoy this album a lot actually

we can stay friends ash

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

onionbubs
August 20th 2017


6796 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

same logic is the best on here, tho 137 is absolutely a close second

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

Lucid
August 20th 2017


8680 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

every song is quality so we're just spinning around in circles picking a "best"

FreddieDelaney31
August 20th 2017


3331 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Pos'd, this is a fantastic review, love the closing sentence so much

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

Flugmorph
August 20th 2017


17436 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

the whole second half is consistently great



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