Latest album from Brand New reestablishes the brand
John Wilson | Wednesday, September 6, 2017
It’s 2017, and an emo band has the number one album in the country.
Brand New’s latest and alleged final album, “Science Fiction,” appeared somewhat out of the blue via Procrastinate Music Traitors! breaking the Long Island Band’s 8 year radio silence since their last album, “Daisy.” Even ardent Brand New fans might find it hard to believe that a band whose most popular album came out in 2006 could have the top ranked album in today’s America, when most of their contemporaries are either broken up or legacy acts. In the years since “Daisy,” the most prominent reminder of Brand New’s impact has been the number of rising bands they have influenced. At first blush, Brand New’s latest might be written off as a nostalgia act harkening back to a bygone era.
While the latter portion of that statement is currently being debated, “Science Fiction” is certainly not an album from a band coasting merely on nostalgia. Considering the pantheon of Brand New albums, “Science Fiction’s” ability to hold up against its predecessors is an accomplishment in and of itself. But the album also shows how the band has changed over time. While Brand New has always been able to use quiet to its advantage — usually in service of scream capped crescendos — this album is by far the band’s most subdued. The first track, “Lit Me Up,” begins with an eerie recording of a women describing a hallucinatory state and continues with vocalist Jesse Lacey barely getting louder than a whisper. On “Could Never Be Heaven,” Lacey gets personal about family without ever hitting that familiar crescendo. “451” goes louder but also sounds like Brand New trying (and succeeding at) roots rock.
Everything from the album cover to the title hints that the album contains less emotional ferocity, especially for a band who have an album called “The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me.” Some of the anger may have worn away with age, but a different kind of heaviness is still there. The emotion in earlier albums was usually angst directed towards the tropes of the genre, girls and jerks in the neighborhood. This time around the pain comes from Lacey himself, and it certainly feels more universal.
On “Can’t Get It Out,” Lacey reaches peak intimacy detailing past struggles with negativity and depression. “Some Logic/Teeth” ponders repeating mistakes and self-sabotage. It also marks the first song on the album where Lacey really lets loose with some vintage howls. The final song, “Batter Up,” offers an apt mantra for the band. The chorus — “Give me your best shot, batter up” — concludes this final album fittingly with a slow burn fade out.
One could imagine a scenario where, knowing this would be the end, the band opted to play it safe and recreate the pop punk formula of earlier work. The two singles the band released in the past few years even hinted that this unfortunate scenario would probably occur. Luckily, those singles did not end up on the new album, and, looking back, that misdirection may have been the band showing off — eschewing any pent up nostalgia.
Finally, upon hearing this album, I began to think about another album that came out earlier this year. It hit me while shopping for last minute back to school needs in the superstor/modern music tastemaker Bed, Bath and Beyond. “Hard Times,” one of the hits from Paramore’s last album came over the in-store PA. Normally, hearing an enjoyable album in this kind of situation would lead to a good deal of embarrassment, but, in this case, it didn’t seem out of place. It reminded me that Brand New and Paramore conceivably could have been booked for The Fest in 2006. The shift towards straight pop has done a lot for Paramore’s music, but it also makes it harder to talk about them as a rock band. That said, even though they took rather different sonic routes to get there, both Brand New and Paramore made albums dealing with dark subject matter and found mainstream success when in a supposedly dead genre.
“Science Fiction” is an ambitious and fulfilling send off for a band that has already cemented its status. Fans of emo are often depicted as journaling teens, and even if that stereotype holds up (see: the chorus of “Soco Amaretto Lime”), the early success of this album proves that, even though these teens may have gotten older, the passion remains.
Artist: Brand New
Album: Science Fiction
Label: Procrastinate Music Traitors!
Favorite Tracks: “Can’t Get It Out,” “Same Logic / Teeth”
If you like: Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat World, Modest Mouse
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5