Brand New – ‘Science Fiction’

By Kathryn Black

Brand New have always been a little unnerving. Shrouded in mystery, it’s always felt like we don’t know that much about a band that have been around for so many years. They send out cryptic messages, even printing their supposed end date on a t-shirt, and the release of ‘Science Fiction’ has been no less intriguing. Might this be their swansong? Honestly, who knows at this point. If it is however, what a way to end.

Brand New’s unpredictability rarely ends in disappointment. While there may be debates about which of their releases is the greatest until the sun explodes and swallows us all, their quality is their unstoppable consistency. (It’s ‘The Devil and God…’ by the way.) Unafraid to draw on varying inspirations and wholly reliant on their ability to put a tune together rather than any fancy showmanship, they tend to hide behind the scenes and let their music make the statements.

There’s certainly a statement to be found here but it’s not obvious, layered in imagery and veiled in hidden meaning. The record speaks honestly regarding acceptance but it contrasts with a longing for a different status quo. ‘Lit Me Up’, tired and defeated in message not music, opens with a spoken word declaration: “I don’t mind having all of this going on inside of me […] I think I’m going to be relieved when it’s over.” Both a reference to an internal struggle and perhaps the life of Brand New, it’s a double dose of poignancy straight to the heart.

‘Can’t Get It Out’ references the suffocation of depression using powerful natural imagery but ‘Waste’ lays things out more literally, imploring “take your head apart / free your own heart”. There is a juxtaposition throughout the album between hopelessness and hope and in the same song we hear clearly the message to take away, “don’t lose hope”. (Jesse Lacey’s whispered “this is the last one” is also a sad reminder that this band might be coming to an end.) Long, drawn out notes groan beneath the weight both of the content and what this album represents. It’s a sigh, it’s exhaustion – it’s time to put this all to bed.

‘Could Never Be Heaven’s simple refrain disguises a far more complicated sentiment of leaving behind those you love, and ‘Same Logic/Teeth’ delves even deeper. A memorable moment of the album, as the contrast in mood matches the changes between sections of quiet and loud, it’s a frustrated imploration for those who need help to try and help themselves.

‘137’ keeps on going. Darker and deeper, growling heavy and slow, it’s a grey cloud lifted only by the guitar solo with a force that can almost be felt, willing you out of the dreariness of both song and mood. Another contrast comes into play with ‘Out of Mana’ as its imagery finds in footing in a more practical world but the track overall feels like a stream of consciousness alongside the acoustic interlude – nightmarish and warped in lyric style.

The eerie ‘Desert’, sung from the point of a man who would rather kill his child than him live his life in the way he would like to, cuts close to the bone in the same way as 2006’s ‘Limousine’, telling another’s story. “Don’t come running to me / When they’re coming for you,” the chorus repeats. It’s a message being turned inwards at the storyteller, their own words reflected back at them as Lacey sings, and serves as a potent warning.

While the overarching message may seem negative, as the subject matter covered is so tough, don’t lose sight of the hope that lingers underneath. It may simply be a small mention of love or family, but there is always something to cling on to in what feels like the darkest moments. For Lacey, it’s a speckle of hope in depression. For us, it’s a moment to cling on to in a song and one that’s summed up succinctly during ‘Could Never Be Heaven’. “You are not alone / We are not separate.” We’re urged to appreciate things, reflecting the message of ‘Same Logic/Teeth’, in ‘451’. “A million suns won’t fill you up / If you can’t see the wine flowing over your cup” is sung over a driving beat with a similar power to Marilyn Manson’s ‘Beautiful People’ and it feels as though we’ve dragged ourselves out of the despair once again, ready to charge forward.

At this point it feels like Brand New could release anything and we’d fall in love with it. After all the waiting and wondering, it’s hard not to. But it’s not all just based on excitement. Able to capture a feeling, one usually hushed and hidden from public view, they’ve provided a soundtrack for a – broken – generation. If this is the end for Brand New and it’s time to start the grieving process – well, what a life it’s been.

KATHRYN BLACK

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