Brand New – Science Fiction Roundtable Review


Brand New return with their first Brand New album since 2009. We decide if it's any good.
Procrastinate! Music Traitors, 2017
Purchase: Band Storefront

8.3 / 10

Welcome to another Earbuddy Roundtable Review. To explain, Earbuddy assembles three or more writers to discuss a new album with each writer giving his/her thoughts on the release and their own personal score. Then an average score is determined for the album overall. For our latest Roundtable, Earbuddy writers Tom Alexander, John Downey, and Sami Rahman will be reviewing Brand New‘s possible final album, Science Fiction.

Album Background

Here we are again with another surprise album release. Though, I guess it’s not really surprising to get a brand new album from Brand New. I mean, they did say it was coming soon. But then, it was just there in the world. And possibly the last piece of music we were getting from the band. Is this a grand finale? Or maybe the band is just getting this out so that they can move on from Brand New onto brand new endeavors. Sorry, two brand new puns is two too many. But enough of jibber jabber, let’s get down to discussing whether this album makes us sad the band is possibly saying goodbye.

Tom Alexander:

I could write 1,000 words about Science Fiction. Brand New, when all the counting is done, is probably one of my favorite bands of all time. They’ve got two 9.5 – 10 records (Deja Entendu, The Devil And God…), and Daisy is much better than its reputation lets on, no matter what anyone in this column says. I came into Science Fiction like all of you though: blank. There was no real build-up. Also, I did not like either of their interim singles from past years (“Mene”, “I Am A Nightmare”). But with no expectations, Science Fiction is good, but don’t believe the hype. It’s not “GOAT”. It’s not Album of the Year. Are you serious? In a year with Kendrick, Pure Comedy, Perfume Genius, Vince Staples, A Crow Looked At Me, Slowdive, Big Thief, Grizzly Bear, and Marika Hackman, this doesn’t even top the Top 5.

In a career that has seen a variety of styles and approaches, Science Fiction sounds like a tired mix of Brand New’s previous albums, with many ideas reused. You’ve got it all: awkward wordplay (“137” and that ridiculous “Let’s all go play Nagasaki/ We can all get vaporized” line); a muted, long ballad to close (“Batter Up”); emo anthems (“Can’t Get It Out”, “Same Logic/Teeth”); and plenty of inner turmoil to spare. The best part of the album is the production and tone. Brand New establishes a dark, brooding mood even when they’re up-beat. It sounds plagued with history, much like Daisy and The Devil And God…. At its worst, though, it sounds like a band that’s no longer wants to make music. Say what you want about Daisy, but that record had a possessed energy.

I saw Brand New live in 2009 while they were touring for Daisy. It was a good show, but I was struck by how defeated and tired vocalist Jesse Lacey came across. I felt as if I had just paid money to see a man wallow in his misery on stage, to open up his old wounds for my entertainment. Lacey’s presence feels mostly absent on this record. Not surprising given how much Vin Accardi contributed to the songwriting of Daisy in comparison to previous records. The liner notes for Science Fiction aren’t released yet, so we can place our bets on those credits now.

Tom’s Score: 7.5

John Downey:

Tension and release
Rarely sound so rewarding
Just a little long

John’s Score: 8.5

Sami Rahman

I’ve never been able to stomach emo. Sure, I can jam to some Sunny Day Real Estate. And I’ll quite often bask in the pure-pop of Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American. But any band that uses the typical “emo” signifiers (screamed choruses, half-time choruses, annoying choruses, etc.) has never been my bag. So when I discovered Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, with its nauseating dynamic shifts and emo-adjacent vocal delivery, it almost felt wrong to like it as much as I did. But oh, did I like it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get down with much else by the group. Especially their previous, supposedly masterful record, Deja Entendu. It featured a lot of those sonics that irked me. I’ve since come around to that album, but “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” will always be suuuuuuuper fucking corny. So, when there was anticipation building for their 5th (and final) album this last week, I couldn’t really be bothered. Then, it dropped out of nowhere on Friday. Curiosity and that pretty kickass album cover got the better of me, and boy, am I glad it did.

It feels trite to say I dig this new record because it sounds like an older record, but it sounds like a direct carry-over from Devil and God for me. The claustrophobic, varied production, the harshly melodic songwriting, the sense of dread that permeates the album; it was exactly what I was hoping for from a Brand New album. There are so many details to immerse yourself in and latch onto. From the harmonic guitars that open “In the Water”, to the miniature lo-fi ballad that closes “Out of Mana”. Even the contrived voice recordings work, for the most part.

They’ve got the hooks: “Can’t Get It Out” is blissful radio-rock, and the Nirvana rip-off “No Control” is concise and, dare I say, controlled. Lyrically, Jesse Lacey has always seemed to be trying too hard, but it’s rare for a band to even come close to being able to pull off a song like “Desert” with its cringey lines about “boys kissing boys” and raising your son to be “a righteous man”.

The closer “Batter Up” is wonderful in its slow build. But sadly, it doesn’t quite build enough, never releasing into that cathartic explosion I’m sure the band knows its fans crave. But by the time you do get to that (gasp!) almost nine-minute track, it doesn’t feel like listening to an hour of music. This record breezes by. Perhaps it was my low expectations going into it, but Science Fiction was a wholly unexpected pleasure, an ALBUM in a time when full-length statements are getting harder and harder to pull off. If Brand New continues to bring that same focus and clarity to future releases, I hope they stick around for a long time. But if they go out now, they can rest easy. Science Fiction adds to an already pretty great legacy.

Sami’s Score: 8.8

Final Score

8.3 / 10

About NK

I founded Earbuddy to turn you onto excellent music and give fair, unbiased, and honest music reviews. Hit me up on Twitter @earbuddy if you want to chat about music, disagree with what I've written here, or talk about anything else.