By Amanda Romeo
Special to the Chronicle
We should have seen it all along. On Aug. 17, Brand New revealed their fifth full-length album, “Science Fiction.” It was long-awaited and almost three years teased … and we’re still shaking.
As a potential “final act” for the Long Island native band, “Science Fiction” does Brand New absolute justice. Imagine “Daisy” (2009) had a baby with “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” (2006). That baby is “Science Fiction.” “Science Fiction” is the combination of loss-of-control intensity, much like that of “TDAG,” blended perfectly with an eerie meditative vibe and lack of pretense, similar to those traits of “Daisy.”
The resulting tone is that of a masterpiece: mature, pensive yet on the verge of exploding; a very Brand New-esque sound. It is pretty much exactly what Brand New fans have been craving for the past nine years. Highs and lows will keep you on edge throughout the entire 61-minute length of the album. And whether you’re listening to heart-heavy, finger-picked ballads like “Could Never be Heaven” or more familiar post hardcore tantrums like “Same Logic/Teeth”, the content is lyrically, instrumentally and entirely, nothing short of chilling.
Like the album itself, the release was a testament to the band’s own nature; equally discrete and monumental, and drenched in mystery and intrigue. Fans were shook hours before the 12 song album became available online when hardcopy pre-orders were sent out as a collective singular track, titled only by a set of coordinates: “44.5902N104.7146W”.
As it turns out, these coordinates will point you to the location of Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, but wait, there’s more. They were also sent out with a cryptic, Xeroxed copy of a letter; a letter ending in strange notation symbolizing a series of chess moves followed by a series of quotes both from the 1968 science fiction film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
There are an impressive amount of detailed allusions, as would be customary for Brand New in any album. Right off the bat, the song “451” makes an obvious reference to Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel “Fahrenheit 451.” The song “137” is little bit of a less obvious reference, though you probably recognize the number if you’ve ever watched “Rick and Morty.” That’s because “137” is the atomic mass number of the radioactive isotope caesium-137, (or Cs-137), a common fission product of nuclear reactors/weapons.
The song is a haunting progressive-rock ballad, romanticizing the idea of nuclear warfare and the relief of “turning to vapor” before having time to think about it. The mood is set perfectly with patient instrumental timing, balanced by the sense of urgency in Jesse Lacey’s voice. Furthermore, ties to their previous work are evident in almost every song. Themes from earlier albums seem to come together in a somewhat responsive way.
It is as if “Science Fiction” is a reflection on the meanings of prior albums, and in a sense, a reflection on the meaning of Brand New as a whole. Recurring topics and messages from songs on previous full length albums are all over, along with a new message that captures “Science Fiction’s” greater meaning and gives the album its own identity.
Think about the title. What is science fiction? It is the genre classifying imagined representations of the feared and unknown future; a future that deep down we all yearn for, even though it scares us. This says a lot for the album alone. There are a lot of times on the album where you sense a feeling of hopelessness, but the message behind “Science Fiction” really is one of hope.
The recording at the very start of the album does the best job of capturing the exact point that I believe the album is trying to get across. The quote, which may also serve as a “TDAG” reference says “ … while I don’t mind having all this going on inside of me … I sort of think I’ll be relieved when it’s over, when I can sort of settle back down … ”
After all is said and done, the most obvious message in the album, it truly breaks my heart to say, is that this is it for Brand New. But on a much deeper level, their message is one that continues to seek biblical heights and one that gives us hope for eventual satisfaction in this sense. “Science Fiction” is Brand New’s existential crisis. And as such, the album wholly ties together their venture, and serves as the perfect goodbye.