RATING: 10/10 

After eight years of waiting, many began to think that this was an album that was never going to happen, yet here it is, Brand New are back with their fifth LP, Science Fiction, and as everyone expected it might just be the album of the decade.  It’s everything we’ve been waiting for and more. It’s such a significant release that we’re going to take it track by track.

The record begins on a similar note to 2009’s Daisy. Album opener, ‘Lit Me Up’ starts with the audio file of a supposed therapy session in which the patient recounts a dream. It’s incredibly unsettling. It’s one of the more reserved songs that Brand New has ever begun an album with, and they get to the soul-crushing early. The whole six-minute track has this sense of claustrophobia that is inescapable.

“After eight years of waiting, many began to think that this was an album that was never going to happen…”

‘Can’t Get It Out’ takes a slightly more uptempo approach than ‘Lit Me Up’. It has a very similar vibe to their second album, Deja Entendu. It makes for a nice contrast, and lets you know early that you should expect a varied record.

Third track, ‘Waste’, is the first real evidence on the record of the band’s technical ability. The instrumentation is deceptively complex in places, though Brand New manage to make it look as easy as about everything else they do.

‘Could Never Be Heaven’ has a distinct folk-rock vibe to it, much like the track ‘Luca’ from The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, and has some of the most stand-out lyrics on the record, namely ‘The deeper I sank, the less I died’, and ‘I heard the outer darkness is really nice this time of year’, which are dark even by the standards of Brand New. Jesse Lacey manages to make this relatively laid back track give the listener a sense that life has spun out of control. It’s definitely one of the heavier tracks on the album.

‘Same Logic/Teeth’, the fifth track on Science Fiction, is another Daisy-esque track, and it becomes clear that Brand New have followed the same road they had taken with Daisy of using a more traditional rock sound instead of punk or emo. It’s definitely much more refined than Daisy however, which often split fan’s opinions. It’s got everything you could want from a Brand New song, some excellent guitar-work with plenty of fuzz, the acoustic sections are genuinely beautiful, Jesse Lacey’s singing is arguably better than it has ever been, and every second feels like it’s been thought out and recorded with expert precision.

‘137’ is where things start to get political, with the line ‘Let’s all go play Nagasaki/We can all get vaporised’ making obvious reference to the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki in the Second World War. The message is anti-war through and through. In terms of the instrumentation, Brand New have some good guitar solos under their belt, and this is one of their best yet. It shows that the emotive range of music extends beyond just the lyrics and vocal performance.

‘Out of Mana’ is one of the more unique songs on the record, being distinctly more alt-rock than the rest of the album before it. It’s a bizarre song, but Brand New thrive in that kind of oddity, and this is one of the strongest tracks vocally on Science Fiction.

‘In The Water’ is reminiscent in places of a classic rock ballad, particularly in the rhythm and the blending of acoustic melody and wailing electric guitars in the background. It’s emotional, and it’s ridiculously catchy. This is definitely a good record for fans of prominent guitars as well, as we’re treated to yet another great solo. It somehow manages to be one of the most uplifting songs they’ve done, perhaps because of its more classic-rock sound, and it’s wonderful. Quite surprisingly, it ends with the recording of ‘And we sing this morning that wonderful and grand old message. I don’t know about you but I never get tired of it.’ that opens the title track of Daisy.

Following on from that ‘Desert’ moves right back into the political, and lyrically is darker than we expect even from Brand New. Its narrative seems to be of a highly conservative, religious father, and discussed his views on territory, sexuality, faith and more, and the chorus hook of ‘Don’t come running to me, when they’re coming for you’ explores the dangers of that manner of thinking. It’s appropriate given the current political climate.

Tenth track, ‘No Control’, is another track with a stronger alt-rock vibe. This feels like it’s going to be a fan-favourite, due to its simplicity, stellar chorus and excellent guitar-work. The repetition of ‘no control’ in the background of the choruses feels like the epitome of Brand New as a band. The hard-rock riff and audio sample at the end make for an unusual and somewhat disturbing contrast, but the impression given is that that was the band’s intention from the start. Science Fiction doesn’t pretend to be anything other than an unusual and in many places creepy record.

‘451’ kicks in and we’re treated to an excellent hard-rock riff. This is a track that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Royal Blood or The Black Keys record. It’s groovy, and maybe the most singularly enjoyable track on the record. The drums and bass are methodical and catchy, and the guitar is left to explore, and it all results in one of the best songs Brand New has ever written.

‘Batter Up’, which Science Fiction closes on, is a slow, lulling track that has a distinctly dreamy sound to it. It’s beautiful and haunting. It feels like the real emotional peak of the record, and is lyrical excellence. Opening with ‘In the valley of your slowly fading memory’, there’s no doubt about the tone of the song, and it makes sure that Science Fiction goes out on a thematically dark note.

Science Fiction is Brand New’s most varied record to date, it’s pure excellence from start to finish. A range of styles and sounds, all tied together under their shared darkness of tone, makes this one of the most emotionally evocative records of the year, if not this decade. If you haven’t yet been emotionally drained by the earlier releases this year by Sorority Noise and Manchester Orchestra, then this will do the job. Is it going to be as important a record to the scene as The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me? Only time will tell, but for now be content in knowing that Brand New maintain their spot as the absolute best.




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