WRITTEN BY : PAUL BILARDO
Those who are aware of the cult-classic following surrounding the band Brand New would most likely have mixed interpretations regarding their music. Some may find their lyricism dark and confusing, while to others their songs may sound like a perfect translation of one’s own melancholy experiences. One thing is for certain however, for the past sixteen years, Brand New has been artistically notorious for releasing studio albums that sound nothing like their previous release. The band’s most recent work, their fifth studio album Science Fiction, is no different.
Released on Aug. 17th, 2017, the album has had a little over a month to catch fire among listeners of all ages, which it has. Brand New did not heavily market Science Fiction (their second album produced from their own independent label ‘Procrastinate! Music Traitors’), nor did they use pop-up shops or over the top social media presence to gain any type of attention. Instead, the band gave an early 2000’s alternative-rock vibe upon the release, by providing some die-hard fans (five-hundred to be exact) with an 8×10 CD. This turned out to be more than a surprise as the band hasn’t released an album in over eight years. An even bigger surprise occurred when the album was released two months premature by the band themselves. On Aug. 15th, 2017, Brand New announced via Instagram that their new record would be available that day for pre-order and would arrive on vinyl sometime in October. Two days later, five-hundred fans were delighted and astonished to receive their very own CD copy in the mail. The album was then made available for purchase on the band’s website the next day and eventually available on streaming services later that week.
Like much of Brand New’s work, there is a common theme that connects each track on the album in order to gather an overall consensus of what the record represents. Famously ambiguous about what many of their songs’ true meaning is, Brand New’s Science Fiction explores subjects such as learned compassion, social issues, adolescent angst and deciphering religious rhetoric. The album’s first song “Lit Me Up” begins with a recorded exchange between a patient and her therapist in which the patient goes into a detailed dream analysis. As the exchange ends, there’s silence until an eerie synth begins and lead singer Jesse Lacey starts the long-awaited album with its first line “It’s where you live, but you don’t know how it’s built.”
As the album progresses, each track picks up slowly in tempo while delivering dark toned yet powerful lyrics that cut through the melody. Known for their immediate pitch changes and at times startling surprises in key-change, Brand New saved this type of surprise for the half-way point in the album. It seemed as though the beginning served as a build-up for this change until tracks five and six. Track five “Same Logic/Teeth” picks up the speed of the record during the song’s bridge in which heavy bass and drums were used to set the change in tone. Track six, “137,” continues to keep up the energy at this point in the album, exploring the subject of how a creator deity (a god) would allow the social world to be plagued with nuclear weapons. The title is a direct reference to the radioactive isotope Caesium-137, which had no trace in Earth’s atmosphere or in nature until the introduction of nuclear weapons to the planet. Lacey sings “We’re so afraid, I prayed and prayed before I learned to love the bomb” just before the climax of the album, which is a fast-paced guitar solo that is supposed to represent a type of detonation.
From there, Brand New keeps up with the pace. They retain their inner punk rock affiliation from their earliest work before slowing the tempo gradually in the later songs of the album. The final track “Batter Up” is just as slow-paced and haunting as the beginning of the L.P. In a sense, the album comes full circle. The song explores mental illness, sounding like the end of an era in someone’s life, in which everything that could have gone wrong, has gone wrong. This may seem unsettling, but the song is performed with a sense of hopefulness that even if things are to go wrong, an individual must press forward and continue to search for the good in their life. Lacey reinforces this all the way to the conclusion of the album by repeating the chorus “It’s never going to stop, batter up. Give me your best shot, batter up.” Depressing indeed, however listeners may feel inspired to know they are not alone when life seems cruel towards them specifically.
Brand New fans were not sure what to expect of Science Fiction, which for years has been rumored to be the band’s farewell album. What they got was a culmination of all the hard-work and musical genius that the band has been able to muster for nearly two decades. With continuous references to their older work such as albums Daisy and The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me while recording the lyrics for their newest LP, it seemed more of an ode to diehard fans and a sorrowful goodbye rather than just another album. Science Fiction debuted at No .1 on Billboard’s 200 chart, which is the band’s first No. 1 album in their history and is one they should be proud of. Brand New’s ability to stay relevant even while going into an entirely new musical direction each album and even waiting eight years to put out a new project truly speaks to their musical ability. If this is actually the band’s last album, they have imprinted themselves in the world of punk and indie rock for years to come.
Brand New can be found on all major streaming services (iTunes, Spotify, Pandora) and will be playing a sold-out show in Philadelphia on Oct. 18th, 2017 at the Electric Factory and Oct. 21st at Tower Theater in Upper Darby.