Brand New - Science Fiction

by Nathan Fidler Rating:9 Release Date:2017-08-18

It’s both exciting and frustrating when a band drops an album without warning. Brand New last gave us an album in 2009, on a seemingly indefinite hiatus once it was done with, not leaving much hope for new material. After a smattering of small releases and some live shows, the last year or so has held the promise of a full album of new songs. It’s finally here, Science Fiction, their fifth and possibly final album.

Sounding like sleeping giants waking from a slumber, this album could actually be the death knell, their own t-shirts stating “2000 - 2018”. What they’d leave behind if they did part for good, is quite probably one of the records of the year.

For fans seeking a scale-gauging review, it’s probably stylistically somewhere between The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me and Daisy. There are smatterings of creepy samples, cryptic lyrics and a range of influences worn on the sleeve. Even the album cover could be iconic - although it does already appear to have been used by a band named Slow Dance on Spotify - just check out the license plate on the car.

Where one-off singles ‘Mene’ and ‘I Am A Nightmare’ had them poised to burst back onto the scene at breakneck speed, it’s actually a deep, thoughtful album, best heard in isolation through headphones. ‘Lit Me Up’ is a gentle reintroduction to their powers; weighty lyrics and a musical backdrop which floats like a lantern in the darkness.

Elsewhere, the aforementioned influences come thick and fast, with Modest Mouse, Morrissey and Nirvana all cropping up. “At the bottom of the ocean, fish won’t judge you by your faults” on ‘Same Logic/Teeth’ is clear nod to Isaac Brock and his quirky pacing, but it’s the angsty yells and harmonies of Jesse Lacey which really make it one of the standout tunes.

The electric picking intro of ‘137’ recalls Kurt Cobain and the greater side of the grunge sound, before going on to morph into a nursery rhyme for the atomic age: “Let’s all go play Nagasaki, what a lovely way to die”, and culminating in a throbbing post-rock solo. ‘No Control’ also drives at the Nirvana influence, but the key is that neither of these songs sits still and takes the easy ride.

Aside from gently tipping their caps to bands from across the last 20th Century, they also seem to be leaving a trail of breadcrumbs in relation to their own back catalogue. “All the songs are about you”, “Don’t crack up”, “Take your head apart” and the repetition of “seven years” all hold significance to previous songs from their history. Lacey even acknowledges his own struggle in his musical history on ‘Can’t Get It Out’, “I’ve got a positive message, sometimes I can’t get it out”.

If Science Fiction, can be said to be lacking anything, it’s possibly the punkier, lightning-fast switch they could make. There are few booming moments, making you miss the stormier side the band, signalled in the fact many songs linger five and six minute marks.

Maybe we won’t ever hear from this band again, but if we don’t, this was a pretty slick send off. One of the most intelligent, poignant and genuinely emotive bands might be laid to rest, but there is more to remember them by than some bands who’ve been going since the 70s.

 

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