It’s probably safe to say that adolescence was weird for everyone. Those years were filled with teenage angst and heartbreak that could only be relieved by blasting music in your bedroom.
Brand New is one band that has always nailed the feeling of being sad and confused about the world. The band, which hadn’t released new music since 2009, finally gave its fans something new to cry to during long, lonely car rides.
Science Fiction is grown up, much like its listeners. They have been 18 and invincible when listening to “Soco Amaretto Lime.” Fans have been betrayed by friends and screamed along to “Seventy Times 7” to get over it. They’ve yelled at ex-lovers in songs like “Mixtape” and “Last Chance to Lose Your Keys.”
Now, those fans are adults with jobs and responsibilities, but the same uneasy feeling of trying to make it through life still exists inside of them. Science Fiction brings back what it was like to have those teenage emotions that follow you into adulthood.
It’s still a Brand New album, but it feels more sincere than those before it. Jesse Lacey describes the fear of being alive at this particular point in history. Songs like “Desert” directly discusses conservative Christian ideals — and mocks them for being hypocritical — but not in a rebellious way. It’s more like giving someone a taste of their own medicine. The lyrics are very literal, and they portray what it’s like to be a parent and have a family in such troubling times.
“Could Never Be Heaven” deals with the idea of an afterlife, and how Lacey cannot picture heaven without his family in it. This isn’t the first time the band confronted religion and the idea of Heaven — take “Jesus Christ,” for example.
But now Brand New's doing it more intricately. It’s like they're say what everyone is thinking but are scared to say out loud, because then it becomes too real.
Lacey has sung about his depression and bipolar disorder, which played a huge role in previous Brand New releases — and this album is no different. Lacey sings about dealing with the same old feelings and trying to not let it bring him down. On “Waste,” Lacey laughs at the idea of even pretending he is fond of his youth because it was such a struggle for him, and does so by giving advice to his former self. “You and I were stuck in the waste/Talking about our salad days/What a damn lie,” he sings. It’s like listeners can breathe a sigh of relief that they weren’t the only ones that thought high school sucked and longed to get away from it all.
The album is candid about self harm and drug abuse, and how someone can easily turn back to those negative things even when trying to reinvent themselves. It’s a breath of fresh air from the general negative rhetoric of self-hate and self-harm. It’s not encouraging negative behavior, but it doesn't pretend mental illness isn’t a huge part of someone’s life.
Even though the songs are about total desperation and immense sadness, there is a strategic construction and beauty to them. Brand New sounds like a post-rock band, and it’s laughable to try to compare them to other mainstream emo bands. The instrumentation and careful sound of the songs is something any music lover can appreciate. It’s an album to put on when you just need to talk a walk and clear your head — or when you’re sitting on the shower floor not sure of what to do with yourself. It won’t give you the answer, but it’ll make you feel like you aren’t alone.
Even though songs like “No Control” make it sound like Lacey is losing it for good, he assures fans that he’s past the point of worrying about his mental illness and will keep trying to tackle it head-on on “Batter Up.” As some of the strongest tracks on the album, they evict such an emotion that can make someone want to lie on the floor and take a minute to contemplate what they just heard. The light-hearted lyrics “Batter up/Give me your best shot” are a humorous way of saying life is pretty screwed up, but you have to deal with it anyway. Lacey’s eerie vocals are oddly comforting, while also making you feel like you got punched in the gut.
Brand New fans have been anxiously awaiting this release for eight years, and the band gives hints in some of the songs as to why it took so long. “In the Water” talks about the stress of perfection, and Lacey sings “everyone’ll wait,” which alludes to the amount of time fans had to wait for the album release. Those listeners who first fell in love with Brand New are at such different places in their lives now, but Science Fiction doesn’t try to take you back eight years. It’s like the band has been evolving with you, just behind the scenes.
“Can’t Get It Out” explores the struggle of being creative and the pressure of producing quality work. The singer sounds ready to leave Brand New’s depressing messages behind and start new with something positive when he sings lines like “My shins burn for the replica youth/I hope that we can eject soon.”
Brand New has suggested that 2018 would be the last year the band would exist. And if so, they are leaving their fans with a ghostly record that feels like a funeral. They’ve done the easy-to-digest tracks with catchy choruses before, but Science Fiction is truly a work of art.
Brand New proves that the title “emo band” doesn’t mean they’re screaming on stage and trying to relate to 13-year-olds. They are putting out serious work and stretching what their sound is. The album is cohesive, but there are so many nuances in each track that could make someone do a double-take. The guitar playing goes from droney sounds to powerful riffs, and it doesn’t sound like the same band can be making such diverse instrumentals.
Those who believe that rock music is dead should give Science Fiction a listen, because — although it’s different from the classics — it is something to be remembered.