From the darkest depths of the nether, royalty has risen and once again, we are blessed.
Your Favourite Weapon (2001), Deja Entendu (2003), The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (2006) and Daisy (2009). There are very few artists in existence that could possibly state the claim that everything they release is a masterpiece, but Brand New are a noteable example. Regardless of the widespread opinion that, in fact, every single Brand New album is borderline flawless, the author’s themselves are their biggest critics. The term ‘perfectionist’ doesn’t even begin to cut in when this band come into conversation. Undoubtedly, this is one of the reasons that fans have been suspended in an eight-year limbo, pondering whether we would ever hear this elusive fifth album.
Throughout this period was a constant narrative of “will they or won’t they” – it was far from romantic, however, the unrequited element remained. Brand New have never been known for their interaction with their fan base, but the distance grew greater than ever. Despite interviews and words from a band of this calibre are comparatively limited, the struggle that members have experienced during their career are sufficiently documented. Battles with mental health are ever prevalent here – a notion that is very present within their fundamentally existential art. Focus on their private lives away from the limelight also took an immediate priority. No fan can deny the validity of these excuses, however, a severe disconnect between the artist and the fore all but eradicated any relevance that Brand New may have possessed – for better or for worse, they are cult.
15/8/17 saw silence break and LP5 is announced.
Cue social media breakdown, frenetic fans fumble for their keyboards, hammering away with reckless abandon. “Brand New Fifth Album Vinyl / Very Limited. Ships in October”. Of course, the apparently measly stock of vinyl sold out in a heartbeat. As did the tickets for the three UK dates that they announced in tandem with the album. So, we knew that we would be hearing the album in or around October, but still, a definitive date was eschewed.
500 fans were sent a mysterious CD from the band following the announcement. The CD consisted of one track with a runtime of just over an hour – the track was titled 44.5902N104.7146W. Typically, a speculative move from the enigmatic four-piece, this title represents the rough coordinates of Devils Tower which was a decisive plot element of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 sci-fi classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Enclosed with the CD was also a booklet that contained quotes from a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s genre-defining 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Again, fans were rendered stupefied – dumbfounded as to whether this was the final product (despite the CD showcasing just the one track, there were discernibly different songs, all of which studio quality – it certainly sounded like the full article) but nonetheless ecstatic at being part of the early elite to experience the long-awaited new material. One recipient of the CD, livestreamed the tracks over Facebook – a pioneer decided to employ the use of Shazam which, sure enough, identified the album, complete with artwork.
17/8/17 saw speculation confirmed and Science Fiction has landed.
The album is a mature exploration of life and death. It really feels as though the eight-year wait is warranted – mature, provocative and imperatively enjoyable – Science Fiction is undoubtedly a masterpiece. In terms of overall sound, it is essentially a blend of everything exhibited by Brand New in the past (save for the angst fuelled Your Favourite Weapon). The sombre melancholy of No Control and Could Never Be Heaven are extremely reminiscent of the downtime in Deja Entendu. The self-reflective lyricism of Can’t Get It Out echoes themes from Devil and God whilst the overall experimentalism directly carries over from Daisy. Altogether, the dynamic is new.
When looking for highlights or standout songs one might struggle, the album works best as its own entity. Science Fiction is meant to be listened to from front to back, after that, take from it what you will. It feels too simple to label this a ‘concept album’ but it is certainly more than just a collection of songs, there is certainly a story of struggle here. The heartache that comes with pressure to be at your best, a fear of disappointment, how it can feel when you’re at the bottom. This is why Brand New are the definitive emo band and this is why so many people have connected with and become deeply involved with their music. On some level, the listener will identify with the music. I could sit here and pluck lyrics from the songs, analyse them and tell you how poignant they are – this review is already long and, frankly, we would be here for hours.
This is not a party album. You won’t mosh. You can’t dance. You’ll even struggle to nod your head. Just listen. Delicate guitar parts, sweeping drums, plodding bass and vocals laced with anguish and emotion make for an album that will define a generation of music. When people discuss alternative music in years to come they will point to Brand New and they will point to Science Fiction as being the final chapter. The band have already hinted that they will be calling it a day in 2018 and so we should relish in this album, take it in and appreciate it for what it is.