If you’re a fan who is even remotely invested in Brand New, especially over the past few years, you’ll be more than familiar with the smoke and mirrors that has surrounded the eventual release of ‘Science Fiction’, the enigmatic and emotive alternative rockers’ fifth opus and declaration of finality.
Indeed, following many shrouded and often off-the-cuff set backs to the release of LP 5, and the odd live show here and there where frontman Jesse Lacey spoke very explicitly (something that’s a rarity in Brand New‘s repertoire) about the band’s impending demise and time to close the curtains on what is currently a 17-year-long career, many had indeed written off the album ever rearing its head.
Yet, as the years passed, so did the extremity of their cryptic nature and, with a surprise release to the world that sent fans both across the UK, the US and beyond on a wild goose chase of what everything that’s happening so suddenly means, we were finally delivered ‘Science Fiction’; the record that acts as the final nail in the soon to be buried casket of their discography and career.
Following 2009’s a tad more experimental, grunge-y, and even at times blues orientated effort ‘Daisy’, yet another instalment of progression and diversion into other areas whilst keeping the base infrastructure of the Brand New style the same, ‘Science Fiction’ manages to pull in arguably the best qualities of their past three records (preceding ‘Daisy’ with 2006’s ‘The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me’ and 2003’s ‘Deja Entendu’), funnel them into one container, and spill them out into a 61-minute journey of dreaded yet beautiful grief and suffering.
After being led into the record with a solemn guitar line and a mysterious tape recording about a subject recounting a dream following some intensive, individual therapy, on which the subject ends their interview saying “While 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, and I can sort of settle back down”, we enter the record proper with ‘Lit Me Up’.
Minimalistic yet haunting, some delicate keys come into play before Lacey‘s croons take our hand into what’s to come; a record of wracked emotional pain, and, perhaps that recording opening the album and the song was chosen to end on that line because, maybe both he and the band will be ultimately relieved when things end.
Indeed, it’s not the only time on this album that it’s assumed that Lacey is conflicting his love for what he’s created with Brand New and also seeing its climax on a controlled peak, mainly sitting with how he’s trying to create a positive message in their material, but, when it comes to it, it always comes out sounding quite the opposite, “I’m just a manic depressive / Toting around my own crown / I’ve got a positive message / Sometimes I can’t get it out.”
Later track ‘Could Never Be Heaven’ takes away the distorted guitars and replaces them with more of a fragile and romance driven choice of song, bearing some similarities to ‘Jesus Christ’, and, much like their 2006 song ‘The Archers’ Bows Have Broken’, ‘Desert’ sees Lacey take on the role and persona of a bigoted American Christian man, arguably taking a stab at the contradicting ideologies and morals that religion sometimes holds.
‘Science Fiction’ holds its thickest slab of meat in the middle. ‘Same Logic/Teeth’ pushes itself back and forth between more controlled verses and impressive crescendos in its choruses, seeing Lacey display his first screams across the album, and quite bluntly talks about self-harm, self-loathing, and the struggles that come with mental health.
‘Out Of Mana’ enters into the mix, and by the time it plays out, it comes away as a contender for one of the band’s best songs that they’ve ever penned. Much like the aforementioned ‘Same Logic/Teeth’, the track displays the band’s indisputable ability to portray positive messages but somehow make them sound somewhat deprecating, but, since their inception, this has been something that Brand New have been heralded and celebrated for.
Things get a little more old school and familiar Brand New with ‘No Control’, a song that could comfortably slide into the track listing on ‘Deja Entendu’, and then ‘451’ sounds like an offering that’s heavily influenced by the hard rock style of Queens Of The Stone Age and The White Stripes, before we soon come to the final moments of what will be the last brand new Brand New album that we’ll hear. Though not an epic finale, ‘Batter Up’ acts as an intentionally hollow and frail resignation. A bittersweet culmination of not only ‘Science Fiction’, but also the band.
With ‘Science Fiction’, Brand New have delivered both a farewell to the world on their own terms, with no promotion so it can thrive on its own merit as a final body of work and art. All of the callbacks and theories will undoubtedly be pointed out, plucked, discussed, and argued upon for months and indeed years to come, yet, all of this aside, ‘Science Fiction’ is the beginning of a mourning and funeral procession that is to follow. With the band’s publicly announced intent to wrap things up for good in 2018, the casket is out on the floor for all to see, the ultimate nail has been driven in, and the 12 months to follow are our chance to celebrate the life and legacy of Brand New one final time.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)