The very last sounds that can be heard on Brand New’s fifth LP release Science Fiction are Brian [Lane] speaking, after the take ends, “That’s the one right there. That’s what we’re waiting for.”
With eight years between albums, Brand New fans understand the meaning of waiting. Science Fiction puts an end to the drought in the most fulfilling way possible.
Science Fiction’s release on Thursday fits into the mold of Brand New’s unconventional career trajectory and mode of operation. In this era of big digital promotion and short attention spans, bands release albums over weeks or months, dropping one song at a time until most of the album has been consumed in small bites.
Brand New has teased this release for months (or years) but there was little advanced warning of Science Fiction’s arrival. Yesterday, the band posted a link to order a special vinyl for LP5, which were sold out minutes after the link went live. Mysterious envelopes, numbered one to 500, containing a CD and a leaflet began arriving in mailboxes yesterday afternoon. A few short hours later, after Brand New fans shared downloads and theories about what the band sent to them, Science Fiction appeared on the Procrastinate Music Traders website for purchase. Whether this a-typical path detracts from, enhances, or is completely irrelevant to the musical experience could be debated endlessly. Brand New fans have not stopped showing up to shows or buying albums so it is safe to assume the plan is working.
Rob Sheffield says in his book Turn Around Bright Eyes, “If all music did was bring the past alive, that would be fine. You can hide away in music and let it recapture memories of things that used to be. But music is greedy and it wants more of your heart than that. It demands the future, your future. Music wants the rest of your life. So you can’t rest easy. At any moment, a song can come out of nowhere to shake you up, jump-start your emotions, ruin your life.”
Science Fiction is here to do just that. The unconventional release suits it because it is not meant to be consumed track-by-track, but as a whole, earth-shaking, 60+ minute masterpiece. Your Favorite Weapon, Deja Entendu, the Devil and God, and Daisy can be examined independently, each coming forth from a band that wrote them to define particular period of their life. Science Fiction, however, is the culminating work of a band that has steadily grown, knocked down walls to explore new sounds and spaces, and patiently and diligently matured to bring those experiences together. This is the work of a band who is no longer running from the last version of themselves, but weaving their body of work together as only experts can do. This album could not be as it is without those that came before it.
Lyrically, Science Fiction packs all the punch of Deja Entendu but with a new found worldliness and depth. “Let’s all go play Nagasaki, we can all get vaporized, hold my hand, let’s turn to ash, I’ll see you on the other side” is a line that hits home in a way that it’s author likely could not have predicted at the time of composition. That same track, titled 137, later gives a nod to Dr. Strangelove in the last line of the song, “God told me to love the bomb.” Science Fiction is peppered with references to the past, from the crackly tape opening mirroring that of Daisy to the lyrical nods to other albums. It enhances the listening experience for fans and gives the new work an immediate feeling of familiarity.
Shining alongside the solid lyrical work on Science Fiction is the flawless production. Mike Sapone appears as Brand New’s producer for a fifth time on this album and uses his years of intimate knowledge of the band to bring forth their best performance. The sound is complex and full, requiring your undivided attention to fully appreciate the quiet moments and subtle layers of instrumentation. This is a softer album than Devil and God or Daisy but has no lack of brilliant solos from Vin Accardi or heart wrenching screams from Jesse Lacey. It may be premature, on the day of its release, to say that Science Fiction is the kind of album that ages gracefully and reveals something new with each additional spin. Yet this album feels an instant classic, like meeting an new friend who feels like they’ve been there all along.
For this reviewer, Brand New has been a path to friendships, a reason for road trips, and a means to understand the journey through this life. This could be the last release for Brand New, the last time we ever hear new songs. There was a weight to the play button tonight, made heavy by years of anticipation coupled with the knowledge that we may never have a new Brand New album again. This band, who has soundtracked our growing up as they grew themselves, may be heading into their final bow during the upcoming tour. Should that be true, and should this reviewer be composing her final review for a Brand New album, Science Fiction is the right place to rest because it is everything we’ve been waiting for.
Brand New, Science Fiction Rating: 10 out of 10