Brockhampton
Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine


3.9
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
April 11th, 2021 | 175 replies


Release Date: 04/09/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: And if you're hurting, love yourself with my heart.

When Joba said in an interview that he would address his father's death by suicide on Roadrunner, a large part of me expected a few passing references, cloaked in metaphor and poetic license so as not to overly disrupt the good-time Brockhampton pop vibes. Goddamn, was I wrong on that one. His verses on "THE LIGHT" two-parter are absolute game-changers for this Texas collective: knotty labyrinths of complex pain that wind from bone-rattling details about skull fragments on ceilings and the void left by a parental figure to a gorgeous declaration of perseverance. If this truly is the first of a diptych of the band's final albums – and to be clear, I take anything Kevin Abstract says on Twitter with a tractor-full of salt – then it's hard to imagine a finer closing idea than "the light is worth the wait".

We've come a long way from the opening moments of "HEAT", haven't we? Brockhampton always self-identified as a boyband, and over the course of one trilogy, another that was abandoned and possibly restarted, a one-off pop album and a quarantine project, we've seen them gradually shed a street image that always felt kinda fake and embrace with full heart a wholesome, upbeat, often silly aesthetic. It's not like there aren't darker topics being tackled, but only iridescence with its distorted, tense harshness felt properly built for those heavier verses about discrimination based on race and sexuality. But sometimes Brockhampton just say fuck it and throw verses of every tone, tempo and feeling over their undeniably great beats, a working method of which Roadrunner is undeniably the apotheosis. Which leads to the tricky question I'm grappling: whether an album like Roadrunner is honestly equipped to handle the heart-shattering material Joba is laying on top of it.

No doubt it's a heavier, stranger journey than the one GINGER took us on, but this is still functionally an album by Brockhampton, who never met a set of bars they couldn't twist into a pop song or a sticky hook they couldn't weld to the nastiest production. Where the lo-fi, dirty Technical Difficulties era represented an often thrilling showcase for the band's raw talent, with some of the best songs made the same day they were recorded and scrubbed from the internet a week later, Roadrunner is the opposite. This is a lovable but frustrating record-by-committee, seemingly unsure of what it wants to sound like, the band's talent diluted and occasionally even aimless.

Abstract claims this record was the product of several scrapped recording sessions, where the collective had started on another summery pop album but shifted gears after a hard personal year back into engine-rattling hip-hop. For a while, it almost sounds like they got there: "BUZZCUT" is without a doubt one of Brockhampton's best red herrings, suggesting an album of mile-a-minute bars over warped production. Immediately after this is the biggest hurdle to Roadrunner's greatness, a truly regrettable run that makes concessions to radio features and half-hearted reworks of superior songs. "CHAIN ON" is a lesser remake of a Technical Difficulties track which originally wandered refreshingly from JPEGMAFIA bars into a dreamy, sample-heavy wind-down, here replaced by a breathless Dom verse that ends the song far too soon. It still fares better than the final cuts of "COUNT ON ME" and "BANKROLL", some of the most manufactured and laboured songs in the Brockhampton catalogue, Frankensteined together from four or five different versions of themselves without the simple charm and fun of any one.

These first four songs feel like proof of concept for a feature-heavy, Redditor-friendly album that never materialised, an awkward start to a set of songs that's otherwise totally clear-eyed about its marriage of sound and emotional catharsis. "THE LIGHT" is the real opener here and one of their greatest ever songs, all firebrand guitars propelling the beat while Joba and Kevin set a new standard for the level of lyricism we expect from this band. It's immediately followed by the languid posse cut "WINDOWS", with every member of the band flexing about nothing in particular, and then a four-song run that shamelessly carries on from GINGER's butter-smooth, blissfully catchy pop rap style. It's a jarring shift from Abstract's stated vision for the album, but for the better, with all the album's breezier content bookended by Joba's absolutely towering work on "THE LIGHT".

Those verses about his father are instant classics, but they're not the extent of what's on Joba's mind here. Between an apocalyptic, pandemic-heavy verse on "WINDOWS" musing on "history stuck on repeat in the loop of sirens" to a nearly solo song about the daily difficulties of life in "WHAT'S THE OCCASION?", this is, frankly, Joba's album with the others performing guest spots. It's a shame more of Roadrunner doesn't give way to his conceptual ambitions - it's strongest when it does, namely on bearface's a cappella hymnal "DEAR LORD". The lyrics are sparse and ambiguous, but seemingly addressed to Joba in his grief; the song rings with a heartbreaking resonance given Joba's time in college singing in a choir, and transitions into "THE LIGHT PT. II" so perfectly I can forgive any early sequencing hiccups.

In that same pre-release interview, Abstract said that Brockhampton's burst of creativity was born out of both tragedy and friendship, with all the boys moving back into one house for the first time since the Saturation trilogy to support Joba at this low point. That right there is the real boyband energy that Brockhampton have always made claim to, I think: not standing around in parking lots posing for music videos, but working as a perfectly tight unit, always in full support of one another, laying out the best and worst of their lives on the tracks so they can start the healing. No matter how you feel about the music, it's hard to argue with a band who'll go through the worst and come out assuring all of us that "the light is worth the wait".



Recent reviews by this author
Sharon Van Etten epic TenThe Antlers Green to Gold
Julien Baker Little OblivionsHayley Williams FLOWERS for VASES / descansos
Black Country, New Road For the first timeWeezer OK Human
user ratings (195)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2021


45087 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

said interview https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/mar/27/brockhamptons-kevin-abstract-im-tired-of-this-boyband-thing-i-dont-want-to-be-a-boyband



didn't get to mention OLD NEWS and DON'T SHOOT UP THE PARTY but they're lowkey some of the best here. album's good

Digging: Brockhampton - Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine

Tunaboy45
April 11th 2021


17619 Comments


Brockhampton, in the year of our lord 2021

gryndstone
April 11th 2021


1976 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This grabbed me a lot quicker than Ginger did. The more i listen the more i think its their best

CatfishSoup
April 11th 2021


318 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's definitely a grower. Can't fault them. Constantly releasing music, mixing it up and evolving. The mixing on this sounds particularly great when played loud.

ian b
Contributing Reviewer
April 11th 2021


1950 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wasnt gonna review this but the fact you didnt even mention America's new national anthem, "DON'T SHOOT UP THE PARTY" has rendered any opinion you have consequently invalid. contrib collab crew wya

Digging: Meat Computer and KirbLaGoop - Goop Computer

ian b
Contributing Reviewer
April 11th 2021


1950 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

beautiful rev though all jokes aside, was a treat to read

rodrigo90
April 11th 2021


6769 Comments


*Fantano fapping really hard right now*

Conmaniac
April 11th 2021


26403 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Don't shoot up the party def gives me 3.15 vibes but the expansiveness on this is incredible

Calc
April 11th 2021


16710 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

guess I'll see if these guys got gud.

Digging: The Armed - Ultrapop

Slugboiiii
April 11th 2021


243 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They've always been good

encomium
April 11th 2021


83 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Iridescence and Ginger's averages lowering when they should be getting higher :/ but i guess I can see how they look less good after how good this one is, but I see them as necessary evolution and in some ways, improvements on the Saturations

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2021


45087 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

iridescence is still comfortably their best, and the only BH without any skips

dannooo28
April 11th 2021


266 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Comfortably the best for sure

encomium
April 11th 2021


83 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Love Iridescence but I always skip Berlin and Something About Him

tyman128
Contributing Reviewer
April 12th 2021


2444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I absolutely love I'll Take You On here

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - The Million Masks of God

Slugboiiii
April 12th 2021


243 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Iri is not the best lol

nolerthebowler
April 12th 2021


8907 Comments


Iridescence has skips af

Colton
April 12th 2021


9522 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

gotta listen to this again. which songs are you guys liking the most?

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
April 12th 2021


1243 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice nice nice, I still needa catch up on ginger before this I guess

nolerthebowler
April 12th 2021


8907 Comments


@colton: count on me & the light.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy