Brand New - Science Fiction (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Brand New

Science Fiction (2017)

Procrastinate! Music Traitors

So yeah, Brand New dropped that new album after all. I'm just as shocked as you are. After seeing them last year in Riot Fest spouting their whole 'RIP Brand New - 2018' banner again, I admit I got disinterested. But just like any Brand New fan, I was all in as soon as Science Fiction became available. Jesse Lacey remains one of my favorite frontmen of all time, and this album continues to show why. Is it perfect? No, but even with its faults, it has a quiet energy meant for weathered souls. That is, in and of itself, a flaw on the record though but one that you warm up to rather quickly. It's tempered down a lot, losing most of Brand New's punk edge, but whether it's mainstream or radio rock, what Science Fiction emphatically states is that this band isn't just a band, or a statement. Brand New is a genre.

You know how Brand New albums have a couple slow burners on it? This record feels like a compilation of those or some demos they reworked -- not too polished and not too rough/grainy. In fact, what I love most about it is that it's the middle ground between The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me and Daisy. I didn't expect that off this -- their fifth full-length and first since 2009. Especially not after the pop-punk drive of "I Am A Nightmare" which I admit I adored. Sue me. Back to the slow-dragging, soul-searing tracks now. The minimal approach to Science Fiction begins with "Lit Me Up" before the poppier mid-tempo drive of "Can't Get It Out". By then, it's clear Lacey and co. are all about simpler melodies, acoustic strums and a less aggressive go at it. Then you've got a little ramping up in "Waste" which is where you can see how Brand New have influenced bands like Manchester Orchestra and Sorority Noise.

"137" is another standout track -- where Lacey runs rampant about love in the apocalypse. Most of the lyrics, as dark and depressive as ever, aren't about cute or unrequited love like the old days though. Lacey's much more seasoned and goes on like an old man who has lived, loved and lost. I'd definitely call this their best album, lyrically, to date. It shows up too on "Could Never Be Heaven" where he combines religion and love with lyrics that feel like a response to old songs like "Jesus" and "... Tommy Gun". It has a blistering guitar solo at the end from Lacey and Vince that's to die for as well. Things get pretty interesting later on with "In The Water" and "Desert" which feel like Michael Stipe took a turn at country acoustics. These had me wondering if the band's calmer approach was due to Lacey's aging voice which I realized at Riot Fest simply couldn't hit the faster, harsher and more aggressive notes. He did the slower songs well though so I think that factors in here.

"No Control" then starts to wind things down as an bass-heavy ode to the grungy '90s, while "451" rollicks on like current era Taking Back Sunday. Side note: it's great to see how both bands have evolved and experimented, whether I agree with the final product or not. As for Science Fiction, this is a record that I hope they do front to back live. It has a cerebral flow to it, especially if you've lost the fire of youth and are embracing old age. I guess the closing song "Batter Up" says it all. It also rings out like "Jesus" and Lacey begs you to "Give Me Your Best Shot"...

He did. All that aside, I wanted some more angst but I can't complain. I wanted some more "The Quiet Things..." -- and I got just that. Meaning I got quieter songs that lack the edge and punk of old. But like I said, any disappointment over the lack of punk quickly wears off. Call it a comeback record if you will as it's been so long since we heard from them but Science Fiction is one of their most real and most effective pieces of art. Mike Sapone's production was spot on again and the cover of those girls jumping from a balcony more or less sums up what you need to do with this. Close your eyes and jump right in.