Brand New are a rare breed. While they delivered four albums in the first eight years, their radio silence has been deafening since. The occasional stand-alone single here, the odd vinyl reissue there, yet when it has come to providing a new solid body of the work, there has been a growing yearning. Nevertheless, after an eight-year wait, their fifth album, ‘Science Fiction’, is finally here.
Refusing to conform to industry standards; no announcement, no pre-release singles, just an immediate arrival and a wave of online hysteria. Sure it’s one of the most anticipated/unexpected (you decide) records of 2017, yet ‘Science Fiction’ is more than just an album. It goes beyond the 12 songs it presents. It’s a multi-layered puzzle that has been theorised and dissected since the moment it caught everyone off guard last Thursday. As a fan, I am elated that the band I have adored for many years have released a new record. However, as a so-called music critic, I feel it’s vital to not let my fandom get the better of me.
In the eight years that have passed since ‘Daisy’, Brand New’s influence has grown along with the expectancy of a new record. On top of that, their distant stance merely adds to their mystique. At the centre of it all is Jesse Lacey, who through all of this, has carried the burden of expectancy.
As always, Lacey’s lyrics are interpreted in a variety of ways. While the band have made it clear that the end is nigh, for Lacey, it seems to have played heavily on his mind. At times, he’s reflective of Brand New’s past. The opening line of ‘Same Logic/Teeth’ suggests his discomfort for past material and having to revisit dark memories; “It’s hard to walk through all the places that your life used to be in”. Whilst there are nods to ‘Degausser’ (see ‘Waste’) with ‘In the Water’ having links suggestive of ‘Limousine’ and ‘Daisy’.
‘Can’t Get It Out’ reflects his creative frustration yet ‘Waste’ sees an introspective Lacey reassuring himself; “Don’t lose hope, my son, This is the last one.” While the folk delicacy that is ‘Could Never Be Heaven’ shows he isn’t alone in all of this. Besides his band mates, there is his immediate family. Ultimately though, Jesse is releasing a weight off his shoulders.
As stated earlier, ‘Science Fiction’ can be taken in many ways. The element of mental health struggles and questioning ones religious beliefs are obvious. Whereas the lyrical theme of water is a constant throughout the album, suggesting Lacey is drowning in a sea of expectation, finally accepting his band’s fate. “Hold me down, Underwater and don’t let me up again,” he sings on ‘No Control’.
Conclusively, ‘Science Fiction’ documents one man’s struggle to live up to a legacy he and his band have crafted for the best part of 17 years, allowing it to end on a satisfying note for everyone connected; the band and their fans.
If this is their parting gift, it is a fitting conclusion. As a fan, it’s a satisfying record that flows seamlessly for the best part of an hour. It goes beyond my personal expectations, especially after the jarring, distorted ‘Daisy’. Yet, like the aching tone of ‘Batter Up’, Brand New’s drawn out exit hurts, and like Lacey, I know the end is coming but I don’t want to face it.
‘Science Fiction’ is a beautiful swansong for a band that has touched so many people in so many ways. Call me biased, but their influence is sure to be maintained for years to come, and this record merely adds to that statement.
‘Science Fiction’ by Brand New is out now on Procrastinate! Music Traitors.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)