By Chris Zuver, A and E Editor
It is hard for me to recall some parts of high school without hearing songs from “Deja Entendu” play in my head. It was Brand New’s second album and little did I know it at the time, but over twelve years later, the band whom everyone once thought of as a trend, would not only remain as relevant, but quite possibly be the most important emo band around.
Last week, on August 17, the quartet surprised everyone (except their fans who are certainly used to the group’s irregular behavior by now) with the early release of their latest full-length: “Science Fiction.”
Since Daisy, their last LP, was released over eight years ago, we’ve heard little “new” material besides a mysterious song played live and a leaked demo from a bygone era. But now that the wait is over, is “Science Fiction” an album worth the wait, or is it more of a throwaway and deserving of such an ironic title?
The simple answer is that time has served Brand New well. But to explain why it was worth the time, is not so simply answered.
In the world of books, the science fiction market is often discarded as a flooded genre. Such can also be said about emo, a genre which has heavily been associated with many bands such as Brand New. Just as you have your Kurt Vonnegut’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s with the written genre, emo has acts like “American Football” and “Sunny Day Real Estate” which stand out in a saturated scene.
Though Brand New has always been placed under the umbrella of the genre, they have a diverse history when it comes to style. Starting in 2000 as an angsty pop-punk band with their debut, “Your Favorite Weapon” in 2001, they followed up with a darker, drama-tinged, but no less catchy LP in 2003 with “Deja Entendu.” After finding success with that sound, they moved away from the poppy side of things in preference for their own brand of minimalism, though they remained true to their themes of gloom. This manifested in 2006’s “The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me,” which, at the time of its release, was their highest ranked album in the Billboard charts. Following this, the band decided to venture toward a more abrasive, semi-post-hardcore sound, which resulted in the release of 2009’s “Daisy.” There were mixed reactions, but it was embraced well in the end.
After that, eight years passed. That is not to say that nothing happened during that time. The band played shows here and there and gave occasional interviews. However, amongst these happenings, rumors began to circulate. For instance, a promotional booklet that the band sold to fans during 2015 came with a postcard that read “rip 2018.” Fans were confused and people began to talk about whether it was the beginning of the end for Brand New. That very next summer, they began selling t-shirts that read “2000-2018.”
And while these rumors of demise have yet to be proven false, we have at least received one more album from these guys before it all comes to a halt.
“Science Fiction” captures part of what Brand New was in the past, and builds on what they have become in more recent releases. While they have never completely given up on the melodramatic lyrics, over-the-top musical passages, and harsh outbursts, this incarnation of Brand New is more mature than they were even on 2009’s “Daisy.”
The album starts with a recording of a woman describing her thoughts and dreams a-la psychoanalysis with an unsettling drone in the background. This recording sets the atmosphere of the album, and returns between tracks throughout, forming a loose concept.
Where tracks from past albums often relied on the vocals to lead the way and convey feelings, they often take the back seat on this album, letting the ambiance take control. One exceptional stand-out example is during the climax of “Same Logic/Teeth” which features a guitar break that gives goosebumps.
While this album is certainly their most mellow effort to date, it is still quite intense. Many songs are ballad-like in nature, starting from the get-go with opener “Lit Me Up.” There is a repetition in many songs, but this does not detract from the experience. Instead, it tends to draw the listener in with a centrifugal pull. Still, many numbers feature heavier moments such as “Can’t Get It Out” and “In the Water.”
One thing that still has not changed about Brand New is the self-reflection and emotional ponderings of the lyrics. Far gone are the rantings of adolescent relationships that filled their early songs, replaced by a new type of macabre. In “137,” front man Jesse Lacey sings “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.”
There certainly is no shortage of pity and doubt in “Science Fiction’s” passages. In “Same Logic/Teeth,” Lacey sings “Well I guess nothing can be perfect, so here’s a comforting thought/At the bottom of the ocean fish won’t judge you by your faults.”
In the end-and if the break-up rumors are true, it is indeed the end-“Science Fiction” is not only a solid album, but a representation of a band which stands today as the pinnacle of a genre. If you are looking for a heavy rock album, this is not what you have in mind, however, you may be surprised with what you get.