There’s plenty on the internet right now about Science Fiction, Brand New’s long awaited fifth record. It looks to be heading to number 1 on the Billboard 200 and deservedly so, as the record is a masterpiece in every respect. But perhaps what strikes me most listening to this record is how much this band has matured. For sure it’s been a gradual progression but Science Fiction to me represents a band at the peak of its song craft.
Just days before Science Fiction’s release I had been debating with a friend whether it is right for bands to “disown” their earlier work, Brand New being the prime example. My friend’s argument was that those songs, whilst viewed by the band as not their best work, mean something to the fans. We all have songs that we associate with certain moments and feelings in our lives and seeing those songs being played live can be an amazing experience.
I wholeheartedly agree. I first started listening to Brand New shortly after they released their first single in about 2002/3. At the time I was a 14 year old pop-punk addict and I loved Your Favorite Weapon. Alongside Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends, it was the soundtrack to my teenage years and I LOVED that there was a backstory between the bands and their songs (you can read all about that here).
Deja Entendu marked a progression for the band and also became the musical backdrop for my first serious relationships and heartbreak. I identified so much with those songs. Then came what is in my mind a generation defining album, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. Everything from the artwork to the production was incredible and the songs did and still do bring me to tears (I don’t believe it is possible not to be moved by Limousine). Many of Brand New’s contemporaries consider it a game changer (there’s a brilliant piece on Consequence of Sound in which Manchester Orchestra and Kevine Devine talk about this). Even Daisy, with its heavier sound includes some of my favourite Brand New tracks.
When I listen to those songs from Your Favorite Weapon and Deja now I remember those feelings and how important those songs were in those moments, but I am also glad that that time in my life is passed.
So if I as a fan of Brand New can grow and mature, why would I not want the same for the band and their music? I understand why Brand New don’t play most of their earlier songs. Those songs are not reflective of who the band are now. And by the same measure I am not the person I was when I first identified with those songs. I still know every word but it’s like we’re old friends who have grown apart.
So that brings us to the here and now, Science Fiction. A record that was so long anticipated, not least because 2018 will apparently bring the end of Brand New. And at first I was hesitant, here was a set of songs that I had no emotional connection to, possibly the final Brand New record, which surely I must love? The circumstances of the release – a CD being sent to those who were quick enough to purchase the limited vinyl of “LP5”, raised questions about whether this really was the fifth album with speculation that this was the “B-sides”. The internet is a terrible thing for speculation and conspiracy theories. The result being that when I put Science Fiction on for the first time I didn’t really know what to make of it.
But as I listened it began to fall into place. I’m not surprised the CD contained a single 61 minute track because whilst each song is unique they have been stitched into a beautiful cohesive whole. And that whole is a beautiful swansong.
With each listen Science Fiction is cementing itself in my mind as Brand New’s best work, and perhaps one of the most stunning records ever released. Each listen reveals something new, an intonation, an interwoven melody, a reflection. There are so many little hints back to earlier songs and a straightforward honesty in the lyrics. It feels as if it is bringing together everything and saying goodbye.
For 15 years I’ve grown up alongside Brand New and if this is the end then what a stunning way to exit the stage. I’m not disappointed.