Eighteen years ago, Jesse Lacey was either singing about a broken heart from a previous college lover, or taking shots at a certain previous bandmate from Taking Back Sunday (Jude Law and the Semester Abroad, Seventy Times 7). Fast forward a few years, and Brand New releases The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, which has had a legacy that left expectations high for every following Brand New album. While Daisy was a great album, it had the hard task of being the follow-up to TDAGARIM, which left some fans desiring more from the album.
In typical Brand New fashion, it took 8 years to release another album after Daisy, with little to no information about whether a new album was even going to be released. With only a two day warning of release, Science Fiction dropped on August 17. As the possible swan song album for Brand New, Science Fiction succeeds as a sensational culmination of their work.
While TDAGARIM often crashed out of quietness with screeching guitars (Luca, Limousine), Science Fiction never really gives in to its desire to get too loud. It often smolders with distortion (Can’t Get it Out), but the chorus’ are now somewhat devoid of Lacey’s all in screaming. This maturity works well on the album, avoiding extreme quiet/loud dynamic in favor of more stability.
Science Fiction is much more centered around acoustic instruments than any of Brand New’s previous albums. Rather than leaning totally on guitars like previous albums, this album shows more instrumental diversity, with the occasional mandolin (In The Water). The album also has an experimental/ambient vibe, with the inclusion of transition clips between songs, such as a short acoustic song transition between Out of Mana and In the Water, and many allusions to their previous work. The album works best when listened to as a full album, as fades and swells without clear distinction between songs.
Lyrically, Lacey has come a long way from Your Favorite Weapon. Whether Lacey “burned like a witch in a Puritan town,” (Lit Me Up) or is “just a manic depressive” (Can’t Get It Out), there is a lot to interpret in Science Fiction. There is an impressive complexity to Science Fiction, and any longtime fan will be rewarded with references to previous work. While TDAGARIM seemed resigned to a life of loss, Science Fiction, while melancholy, seems a bit more optimistic.
Only time will tell if Science Fiction is Brand New’s Dark Side of the Moon or OK Computer, but a few listens suggests that it’s well on its way. If this truly is the last album that Brand New releases, it is a remarkable conclusion to their career.