Brand New rise from the grave with spine-tingling new surprise album, ‘Science Fiction.’
When Long Island post-hardcore outfit Brand New released their fourth studio album ‘Daisy’ in 2009, an extremely abrasive forty minute long explosion of catharsis that left some fans in awe (such as myself) and others in downright confusion, it seemed like the band were finally laying themselves to rest.
‘Daisy’ felt like the perfect conclusion – the release of all the angst and frustration that the previous three albums had been building up to, that left it feeling like the band had pushed themselves to the limit and had no further sonic avenues to explore. However, due to the ineffably large size of Brand New’s fan base and the band’s endearing but often reclusive enigmatic approach to being a band, it wasn’t long before fans were desperate for more.
It was quite a long while before fans would hear actually hear anything from the emo quartet. Brand New’s nature as an enigmatic band is no understatement – the fans often find themselves donning detective-like roles hoping to unearth some hidden detail about any upcoming release or show – however this was often nothing more than speculation and met with very little resolve.
That was until a string of sporadic releases from the band throughout 2015 and 2016, including the surprise release of new singles, ‘Mene’ and ‘I Am A Nightmare,’ as well an official release of the fan-favourite leaked demos from 2006 that were accompanied by re-workings of the songs by the band in their modern form. However, the fans were still not satisfied – although the band were silently dropping new singles in a manner so secretive it almost seemed parodic of themselves, it was a follow-up to 2009’s ‘Daisy’ that fans were after. Soon after when the band began hinting at their demise in 2018, it seemed like a sequel was just on the horizon.
15th of August 2017
However, it wasn’t until the 15th of August 2017, nearly eight years after the release of ‘Daisy’ that Brand New suddenly announced their fifth studio album; ‘Science Fiction’ in a fashion that was indisputably (and irritatingly) ‘Brand New’ – with an extremely limited pre-order of just 500 copies of ‘something.’ Two days later, the select 500 began receiving a mystery package from the band containing the holy grail of all emo memorabilia – a CD containing the band’s new album.
Upon loading up the CD, fans would be submerged into a genuine world of weird as the band present what seems to be their final swansong this time; sixty minutes of eerie and atmospheric Americana stained with a flavour of nineties alternative rock.
‘Weird’ really is the imperative here, as the record lives up to its title – ‘Science Fiction’ comes as a curiosity, in the first few seconds, a woman’s voice, distorted in radio static reads “This tape recounts a dream” before diving into moody slow burner ‘Lit Me Up.’ As the record progresses, it is obvious that ‘Science Fiction’ is certainly a departure from anything Brand New has done before – tracks like ‘Can’t Get It Out’ and ‘Same Logic/Teeth’ let the acoustic guitar take centre stage, with vocal melodies that overtly pay homage to their influences such as Modest Mouse or Neutral Milk Hotel.
The record is embellished with frequent radio garbled samples to further encompass the listener in the desolate, other worldly soundscapes that the band seem desperate to convey. Unfortunately, it very rarely picks up from this point. While some tracks like ‘137’ and ‘No Control’ show Brand New donning their best Nirvana impression, these moments of chaos are much too short-lived and nowhere near as hard-hitting as anything on ‘Daisy.’ All in all, while atmospheric, ‘Science Fiction’ is undeniably (and unfortunately) lethargic at its core.
Really, the big question here is “does Science Fiction live up to the hype?” It’s a big question that warrants a big answer – unfortunately the only appropriate one is “well, sort of…” Living up to the task of nearly eight years’ worth of speculation and hype is no easy task, and while there is certainly nothing distinguishably ‘off’ about the band’s new record, there is unfortunately nothing so spectacular to stick the landing for a leap that took nearly a decade to produce.
In short, is ‘Science Fiction’ a bad record? No.
Is ‘Science Fiction’ just too little too late? Yes.
That isn’t to say the record has been poorly received – ‘Science Fiction’ actually comes as a landmark occasion as it is the first of the band’s albums to chart at number one, but it is hard not to wonder if Brand New’s devout fan base would have loved anything the band put out given the immense amount of hype that pre-empted ‘Science Fiction’s’ release.