Brand New Brand New: Long Island Sadboys Return With More Angst Than Ever
It's no secret that Long Island emo rockers Brand New are a little... unconventional when it comes to music. Most of their branding approaches and marketing ploys have been way behind the times (like maintaining a sparse and mysterious social media presence or relying on snail mail for primary marketing purposes), but they only serve to surprise and excite the band's loyal fanbase.
Brand New are experts at crafting gloomy, moody teen-angst anthems for lonely late night contemplation. Their last full-length record was Daisy in 2009, and for the eight years that followed, anticipation of the band's inevitable breakup circled like a shark. Last year, they announced that their latest album (meant to be released in 2016) needed more time before it was shared with the world. Fast forward to just a few days ago, on August 15th, when Brand New revealed that their newest album would be released a few months from now. Two days later, 500 lucky fans received the full album, officially entitled Science Fiction, in the mail. A sneaky trick from the band, offering brand new Brand New to shock and startle their fans, slashing anticipation and giving the gift of music right away.
Science Fiction clocks in at just over one hour, with 12 tracks ranging from three to eight minutes long. The record starts with "Lit Me Up," an eerie radio monologue fizzing on top of swirling static and spooky instrumental loops. Two minutes in, frontman Jesse Lacey's voice croons with a creeping desperation as the song continues with thick shimmers of percussion and distant spacey sparkles. Following the album's unsettling introduction is "Can't Get It Out," a catchy Nirvana-esque tune led by acoustic guitar and grunge-y electric backing. Here, Lacey lets us know that he's got positive messages to share but he can't help it if they get clouded by the bad stuff, noting that duality when he sings "I finally found all my courage / It was buried under the house."
Next comes the tender rocking reflection of "Waste," guitar-driven with ghostly harmonies and in-your-face lyrics like "I'm hoping that in time / You can lay down all this weight you've been carrying around / And maybe one day / You'll find your way to climb on up out of your grave / With the bits of you you managed to save." After that bittersweet nostalgia is presented comes "Could Never Be Heaven," which finds warm acoustic guitar floating through the song as soft vocals provide a hypnotic performance. An early fan favorite comes next, "Same Logic/Teeth," a warbling blues rhythm accompanying gut-punching lyrics regarding self-harm that have Lacey snarling, howling, and haunting.
"137" is a disturbing take on the apocalypse; throbbing with bellows of percussion, the song romanticizes the inevitability of destruction, as sung sweetly in lines like "Let's all go play Nagasaki / What a lovely way to die." Despite its unnerving subject matter, sonically it's a standout track, from the insistent instrumentation to smoky vocals. Marking the halfway point of Science Fiction is "Out Of Mana," an angsty rock anthem akin to all the 90s grunge jams you raged to during your misunderstood high school years. Moving from quiet breathy delivery to explosive instrumentals that practically drown out the lyrics, the song swirls with a schizophrenic fury that ends with a distant acoustic solo with odd lines like "I'm a ghost / I can't say I know that I'm even here."
Next is "In The Water," woozy and bluesy at first then moving into a simple slow-going alt-rock track with a gentle chorus and an emotional bridge. "Desert" finds listeners having to hear the ignorance of the song's narrator, a homophobic Christian man, who proudly sings "I seen those boys kissing boys / With their mouth in the street / But I raised my son to be a righteous man / I made it clear to him what fear of God means." The story is uncomfortable to listen to, but the instrumental dazzles and breathy call-and-response techniques are undeniably intriguing.
Nearing the end of Science Fiction is "No Control," another successful Nirvana-inspired anthem led by deep bass and a curling rhythm that pads along before launching into wispy harmony and catchy percussion. The second to last song on the album is "451," which creeps with an aggressive rumble. Electric strums and powerhouse arrangements rage like a fire as Lacey delivers a wild, intense performance. An hour later, Science Fiction ends with "Batter Up," eight and a half minutes of slow-burning emotion. A simple layered guitar rhythm sets the stage before groggy harmony starts to swirl. Surprising booms of deep drum beats hit every once in a while as the rest of the strings-based instrumentation swells to an otherworldly, devastating tone made more palpable by the ache in Lacey's voice as he sings "You were all I see / You were everything." The track ends with a three-minute long sparkling instrumental that twinkles, pulses, and spirals, a mystifying end to a cohesive record.
Science Fiction is a homerun for Brand New. Equal parts raging angst anthems and soft, sad ballads, the album has a little bit of everything that's ever made Brand New feel like magic.
You can snag a copy of Science Fiction here. Opting for a CD or vinyl automatically gets you the digital download. Prepare to spend at least a few hours spinning the record, absorbing each track. Brand New have packed tons of sneaky sonic details into this album, so give yourself the time to really enjoy it.