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Brand New – Science Fiction

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Aug 21, 2017.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    If asked to condense Brand New’s career into one word, that word would be “reactive.” From the title of their second album, Deja Entendu, translating to “already heard” to the abrasive, pedal-infused guitars that dominate their fourth album, Daisy, Brand New have always been a band known to react to critics, fans, and perhaps most importantly, themselves.

    For many readers of (R.I.P.) and now this site, August 17th was a day eight years in the making. It started in typical Brand New fashion with fans receiving cryptic packages in the mail, sparking internet confusion and excitement. This time, however, that package contained the band’s fifth (and presumably final) album, Science Fiction – a fitting goodbye to fanswho waited just as long for lyric booklets, let alone a new album. After all, frontman Jesse Lacey has been uncommonly direct about the band’s whereabouts this past year, announcing things like, “We’re done,” at shows, selling shirts predicting the band’s end (2000 – 2018) and even ribbing the band’s bad habits on standalone single “I Am a Nightmare” (“I’m not a prophecy come true/I’ve just been goddamn mean to you”).

    So here we are, less than a week after the band mysteriously announced a new vinyl LP to be shipped in October, and we finally have a new Brand New album. But before we look any further into it, you have to understand that many of us grew up with this band, either during their original eight-year run or waiting another eight for a new album. Brand New introduced me to an entire genre; their songs were among the first I would learn to play and eventually perform at numerous high school talent shows and parties. I made new friends and lost old ones while these songs played in the background; I graduated, got engaged and started a new life with these records in my collection. It’s nearly impossible to detail exactly what Brand New means to the kind of people who frequent this site, but it’s also integral to understanding why Science Fiction feels so vital. For many, it serves as the final piece to a puzzle they’ve been placing for 16 years, a send-off from a band whose music was always there when they needed it. And for Brand New, Science Fiction is a victory lap, an album that finally sheds all expectations in favor of something more mature, more grounded, more real. And it’s better for that. Put simply, Science Fiction is a sigh of relief.

    Those expecting another complete transformation should know that going in, because on first listen, Science Fiction is surprisingly tame (especially for a band who opened their previous album with “Vices”). The band doesn’t unearth an entirely new genre for themselves, despite strong Americana influences against a fitting dystopian setting. As promised, the songs hearken back to a place Brand New could’ve explored before Daisy, building most from that album’s slower numbers (opener “Lit Me Up” recalls the swirling, The Cure-esque guitars of “You Stole”) and the demos that leaked prior to the band’s third album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Also worth noting is the album’s cinematic scope, connected by a series of spoken word segments and eerie field recordings. Despite not playing into the fan service that would have been a more extreme change in sound, the album is designed to give fans the most before the band’s departure, running just over an hour despite excluding its pre-release singles.

    Science Fiction gives us hints of past eras and the artists who influenced those eras; the crunchy power-pop of “Can’t Get It Out” and “No Control” recall the straightforward rock numbers of Deja Entendu, as well as the recent output of close friend Kevin Devine. Career highlight “Could Never Be Heaven” further cashes in on Lacey’s best Morrissey impression, an influence often emulated but only truly realized in the second half of the band’s discography, while “Waste” plays like a sonic cousin to “Brother’s Song” with a shiny, new arena-rock luster. Brand New only truly repeat themselves once here, but when they do, it ends up being a standout moment. “451” is a foot-stomping blues number that recalls Daisy’s sharpened, twangy guitars and Lacey’s fiery vocals.

    Even if the band doesn’t entirely escape the shadow of previous experiments, they do fully flesh out those experiments here. “In the Water,” makes use of harmonica and banjo, effectively billing itself as Brand New’s first song to lean into country territory since “Good Man.” Lead guitarist Vincent Accardi lets loose sparingly, but when he does, he pushes tracks like “Same Logic/Teeth” and “137” into the stratosphere. The former frankensteins Modest Mouse- like guitars with jagged chorus-lines and a harmony-laden, near-acapella bridge while the latter is an exercise in restraint, slowly building to an explosive, “You Won’t Know”-sized guitar solo.

    Despite documenting his fatigue, Lacey is at the top of his lyrical game, painting pictures as realistic (“Not just a manic depressive/Toting around my own crown/I’ve got a positive message/Sometimes I can’t get it out”), apocalyptic (“Let’s all go play Nagasaki/We can all get vaporized/Hold my hand, let’s turn to ash/I’ll see you on the other side”) and biblical as ever (“Holding this mic to a pillar of salt/She won’t say anything at all.”) Sprinkled throughout Science Fiction is commentary on the band’s end; Lacey is “strumming with a heavy wrist” on “Can’t Let It Go,” while on the chorus of “Waste,” he sings, “If it’s breaking your heart/If nothing is fun/Don’t lose hope, my son/This is the last one.” There are even references to past songs treated like Easter eggs for longtime fans, whether it’s a line about taking your head apart or “At the bottom of the ocean, fish won’t judge you by your faults,” being sung in Accardi’s signature baritone.

    You’d be surprised how fast an hour goes by in the shadow of an eight-year wait. In that context, “Batter Up” is an understated career closer, one that acts much more modest about Brand New’s swan song than I do in this album review. Somewhere between “Jesus” and “Soco Amaretto Lime,” the gorgeous arrangement finds Lacey at the end of his rope, simply remarking, “It’s never going to stop/Batter up/Give me your best shot/Batter up.” If it sounds like a bit of a downer, well, it is, and that’s nothing new for Brand New. But there’s a reason I describe Science Fiction as a sigh of relief. Despite their weariness, the band never place the burden on their listener. Regardless of the divisive mystique surrounding them, Brand New have been consistently grateful and in awe of their fanbase, especially recently.

    When I hear “Batter Up,” I’m reminded of seeing Brand New at Stage AE in Pittsburgh on July 10th, 2014. It was Lacey’s 36th birthday, and as he closed the show with “Soco Amaretto Lime,” he made a heartwrenching change to the song’s refrain:

    I’m just jealous ’cause you’re young and in love.

    He didn’t sing it with hostility; he sang it with humility, the same humility that shines in the line, “We all see what once was beautiful turn old and grey.” But Science Fiction is beautiful, for all of the nostalgia it stirs up and all of the memories it has yet to detail. And goddamn, does it feel good to type that.

  2. youwontknow

    If I smile with my teeth, bet you'd believe me

    Very well done Aaron!
  3. Anthony_

    A (Cancelled) Dork Prestigious

    Aaron this was a fantastic review. Thanks for writing it!
  4. chcougar1


    Man. So crazy to think they've been with us for 17 years. That's half of my life. What a ride. I think this one is growing on me, but so far it's the release I enjoy the least.
    fenway89 likes this.
  5. Kevin360

    Someday I’ll find me Prestigious

    Superb review, Aaron.
  6. teebs41

    Prestigious Prestigious

    Great review Aaron!
  7. Chuck!


    This is fantastic writing
  8. Thank you all for the kind words and for reading and in advance to anyone who takes the time to read. There's almost always something I feel I could have written differently or worded better, but I woke up feeling compelled to write this one yesterday and I'm fairly satisfied with the way it turned out.

    I hope it's not too wordy; I've been working on being more concise with my language, learning to love leaner reviews, but here, I felt like a lengthier take was appropriate
  9. Tata Toothy


    It's funny you say that, because my only complaint is it was long enough.

    Nice write up.
    RyanPm40, Nate_Johnson and Aaron Mook like this.
  10. Well done!
  11. Michael Qualiano


    Great review. Great record.
    Nate_Johnson and Aaron Mook like this.
  12. r0m4n44


    Aaron Mook likes this.
  13. Blake Solomon

    Mr. Emeritus Prestigious

    a really fantastic review for an album im not sure how i feel about yet. but this has me excited to listen again.
  14. CoffeeEyes17

    Reclusive-aggressive Prestigious

    god damn Aaron this review is great. like, to me a great review (aside from being well written) is one that gets me hyped to listen to the album again. Once I got to the second paragraph i thought "damn i gotta listen to SF again today" just because i was so into what you were writing.
  15. Zip It Chris

    Be kind; everyone is on their own journey.

    The way in which you referenced the lyrics, song titles, and related them to past material, is my favorite part of the article. Very well done, obviously well thought out, and a pleasure to read. I think you put into words how a lot of us lifelong fans feel, and you did justice to the nostalgic feeling we are all sharing right now.
  16. dotKev


    Wonderful piece of writing. Well done.
    Nate_Johnson and Aaron Mook like this.
  17. DaydreamNation

    there’ll be a knock Supporter

    I'm sure this is a good review, but I thought Drew was reviewing this
  18. As far as I know, Jason and Drew are both writing something but are unsure of what formats they will take. AJ was going to review this, but I spoke with him after finishing this yesterday to see where he was at and he gave me the go-ahead.
    DaydreamNation likes this.
  19. Colin Your Enthusiasm

    It's nobody's battle but your own. Prestigious

    Great fucking review Aaron. Best one I've read on Science Fiction so far. Well done dude!
    Aaron Mook likes this.
  20. Aaron Mook Aug 21, 2017
    (Last edited: Aug 21, 2017)
    These are the kindest responses a writer can hope for. Thanks for these.
  21. Colin Your Enthusiasm

    It's nobody's battle but your own. Prestigious

    Yeah reading this review while listening to SF was perfect. Perfect review for a perfect album.
  22. Yer too kind :heart::heart::heart:
    Nate_Johnson, DejaMoi and teebs41 like this.
  23. SEANoftheDEAD


    Man this review is phenomenal. Really introspective. Goddamn do I love this record.
    Nate_Johnson, teebs41 and Aaron Mook like this.
  24. defmytones


    Phenomenal review Aaron. Like others above have said, this makes me want to listen to it all over again and again. Please do more reviews man.

    I’ve been a follower on this site along with apsolutepunk for almost 10 years now and check it daily. I’ll say Brand always brings a wonderful community stir and a sense of nostalgia to my younger self coming here. It’s a bittersweet end if it’s their last album, and a hell of a send off with this album. I have tickets to see them in October with the expectation it’ll be my 9th and final time. Feels currently creeping on me.
  25. Ryan G

    Moderator Moderator

    One of my favorite reviews I've ever read - simply phenomenal job here.

    Looking forward to spending more time with this come October through December, as I feel like it should have been released in fall/winter. Really liking it on my early listens though - perfect direction for the band to go in.
    Nate_Johnson, DejaMoi and Aaron Mook like this.