What is it about Brand New that has allowed them to be one of rock music’s most enigmatic bands for 15 years now? Despite being raised from the same scene that birthed acts who’ve experienced fairly minimal critical fanfare over the years, Brand New have managed to eschew traditional press courting and yet maintain their role as a media darlings. And now in a sudden, startling drop, they release their fifth album, Science Fiction, after eight years in relative obscurity.
For fans who were worried by their most recent single, ‘Mene’, Science Fiction is a return to the form that has established Brand New as somewhat of a Holy Grail of emo. Throughout 12 tracks and clocking in at one hour in length, Science Fiction takes us on a tour throughout the band’s constantly changing sound over the years – picking and choosing from their a catalogue of aural aesthetics and combining them under one emotionally intense, grunge tinged journey of self-exploration. Sonically, it has the most in common with their lauded third album – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me – whether it’s individual tracks like the claustrophobic, angry intensity of ‘Lit Me Up’ and ‘451’ or just the overall sprawling ambition of the release, much of the Long Island band’s former selves are explored here.
Part of Brand New’s lyrical magic will always rest in Jesse Lacey’s willingness to embrace his role as the imperfect narrator. Rather than being put on blast with a hundred “why me?” emotions, Lacey’s lyrics retain their reliability in their acceptance of self-critique. He doesn’t deal in absolutes, there are moral questions asked of himself and the people he sings about but – like in real life – emotions won’t always stop to answer moral questions. ‘Can’t Get It Out’ rawly bears Brand New’s role as a band who want to be positive for their fans but just end up re-enforcing negativity. Modern American boredom is astutely captured in ‘Waste’ and the Christian homophobe baiting ‘Desert’. Lacey is on his best lyrical form on this release and perfectly captures the mood of a generation slipping into an age of nihilism based on sheer frustration, isolation and a political impeding sense of doom.
Brand New create late night emo music for adults. Like Daisy and The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me before it, Science Fiction achieves the balance between the guarded restraint of indie music and the unashamed emotion and vulnerability that we usually reserve for coming-of-age albums. As music fans age, we’re conditioned to fall away from emotionally overwrought music – it’s a flavour reserved for the young or the naive – but life is fucking hard and if we can’t be sincere or earnest with ourselves in our own music tastes, then music can’t have the emotional qualities we all ascribe to it. Science Fiction claws back the pretence and coding that shrouds alternative music in 2017 and replaces it with raw energy and a willingness to admit that you’re just as sad as you were when you were 16. If this is their swan song, it is a perfect one. Kelly Doherty