Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stranger Than (Science) Fiction

Last Thursday was a big day if you were one of the many rabid/cult-like followers of Brand New. The patience that, understandably, was wearing thin after an 8 year gap between albums came to an end with an album, Science Fiction, that came out of the blue. I think even the most depressed fan with bottled up teen angst remaining from 2007 even had to crack the slightest of smiles when this news broke. I like to picture the tweet heard 'round the music world was like a Bat Signal. All of a sudden, all these 20- and 30-somethings working at a job they hate hear word of this album and they feel the urge to blast Sic Transit Gloria and go tell strangers to die young and save themselves, while getting angry over an ex who hurt them back in 2003.

Over two years ago I wrote a post called The Curious Case of Brand New. This was hot on the heels of the band releasing a new single 'Mene' and had performed another song live (never released) called 'Sealed to Me'. It seemed like a new album was imminent and Brand New was ready to reclaim their throne in the world of alternative rock. What happened next was one more single, 'I Am The Nightmare' which was very good, and then a few months later an email to those on the Procrastinate! Music Traitors email list explaining that they would NOT be releasing an album anytime soon. Not only did that suck the already low levels of joy in Brand New fans, but it raised new questions of when the next album would be, and if it would even happen at all.

Brand New was in a tough spot. Their first 3 albums were universally loved, and 'Daisy' was their first step in the wrong direction. It was simply too weird. The song 'Gasoline' ends with a minute and one second of mind-numbing distortion. Multiple songs had weird old timey recordings from church sermons. It had a couple decent songs, and sure, some people say they like the album, but no one is ranking that as their favorite Brand New album. Anyone who says Daisy is a great album is probably someone trying to be a music snob and probably also thinks that 'Bleach' is the best Nirvana album. In whole, Daisy was a disappointment (massively, to most) and I think a lot of people were very curious and worried of how the next album would come out, whenever that would be. We, the bloodthirsty angsty kids, had to accept that we wouldn't get a second Deja Entendu (which is understandable), but we would have certainly settled for something closer to The Devil and God.
Always appreciated fine (album) art

This is where Science Fiction absolutely enters into the equation, and ultimately delivers. My dear buddy Steve "Sherry Poo" Sheridan summed it up perfectly when he said that this album is what SHOULD have followed up Devil and God instead of Daisy. The music on Science Fiction has it's own sound, while still having that Brand New feel to it, and minus the Daisy weirdness. This is what fans wanted.

I admit that right off the bat I was scared as hell as I hit play on opening track 'Lit Me Up'.  It opens with about a 90 second intro of what sounds like a patient telling her shrink about some dreams she's been having. I had a sinking feeling that it would be another Daisy, but my thoughts were at ease when the actual song kicked off. Track 2 is 'Can't Get Out' and all of my doubts were set aside and the feeling of excitement of something magnificent started.

Let's get one thing clear: Science Fiction is not a cheery album. It's sad. Really sad. It's like a gut punch of sadness that opens up a pit in your stomach, but you enjoy it. A lot of it is heavy and slow, but it keeps you paying attention throughout. The album's final track 'Batter Up' is 8 minutes long but you don't get the desire to skip to the next song halfway through. Personally, I love 'Could Never Be Heaven' and I can already see Jesse playing that solo to close out shows on the upcoming tour that was impossible to get tickets to.  'Same Logic/Teeth' has some moments of the angsty yelling that we all love and adore, while having a certain movie-montage-song caliber pace to it. When it comes down to it, there is no song that disappoints. It's a great album throughout, which makes sense considering the time it took to make. You get bits and pieces of intensity mixed with a slow-burn of acoustic guitar at points. It's a mixed bag in the best way possible: you get all forms of Brand New at their best. This is the redemption album that made the wait worth it.

I personally think that Brand New became important for this generation because their early songs were so relatable. Jesse Lacey is the Morrissey of this generation, which I think was a goal of his. His lyrics are relatable.  We could relate to being stabbed in the back by friends. We dealt with heartbreak and wondering what else is out there down the line. Brand New was the curators of the soundtrack to a lot of our lives growing up, while figuring out that crazy thing called life. The majority of music these days is made up of nonsensical bullshit. People don't care about lyrics and just care about beats.  Pitbull mentions random names of cities and yells 'fireball' a bunch of times over a cheap, catchy beat and makes money off of it because a lot of people are stupid. Brand New gave people an outlet to relate to, and their music mattered. Maybe it took some brains in their fans and some understanding, but those people who get it fell in love with this band. There aren't a lot of fairweather Brand New fans out there. There is a reason why everything Brand New does/tweets/posts goes viral instantly.

Love the guitar

I admit, this paragraph is a bit random but I have to include it because it's on my mind. What is up with Jesse Lacey's fear of drowning? Between 'Play Crack the Sky' (drowning in a shipwreck near Montauk), the lyrics to 'At The Bottom' and 'Sink', mentioning "sinking like a stone in the sea" in the mostly instrumental 'Tautou', and now a song called 'In the Water', I feel like he's pretty scared of the ocean. Oh, and that whole "and even if her plane crashes tonight she'll find some way to disappoint me, by not burning in the wreckage, or drowning at the the bottom of the sea" thing in 'Jude Law And a Semester Abroad'. I'm starting to think he never learned how to swim or something.  Oh man, and don't forget about 'Jaws Theme Swimming'. Maybe that movie scarred him!

With Daisy, the message became less relatable and we didn't really know what the hell they were talking about. Pair that with the weirdness of it all and people turned away from it. Science Fiction gets things back on track. They have grown up, and so have we. The teen angst is gone but the real life issues are there. Science Fiction has mentions of wives and kids and not knowing what else the future has in store, which is also what this generation (as we get older) is going through as well. All of a sudden, we have another album that can be a soundtrack to another phase of our lives. The wait is over. Jesse Lacey is back on track and we all need to kick back and enjoy this.

Daisy is forgiven. Long live Science Fiction.