Any fan of Brand New knows their chameleon-esque growth from pop-punk toolbags to somber, sober, and potentially alienating adults buried into the mystique of their own loftiness. Brand New is, and has been for a long time, in the upper echelon “top 5 mixture” of my favorite artists. I could still make a pretty sound argument for The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me as the best modern rock album, if Radiohead is not considered rock.
There is a part of me that admits the underlying layers of “Science Fiction” as studio wankery. Give me a record with hooks and regularly-formed instrumentation, and we can be all good. Yet, another part of me has that “Blackstar” feeling considering Bowie’s last album. It is one we need to hear, whether we want to or not.
Brand New has aged into less-than-humble territories of sullen misery and mortality. There is very little of that aggressive building, excluding the swirling echoes of “Out of Mana.” The 8-minute closer and the 7-minute opener remain dialed to 5/10, and hardly build. But, both the expectation of that build and the fact that it remains so leveled is shockingly eerie in its own right. It makes your skin crawl in a different way, not a Linkin Park kind of way.
So, what Brand New dropped, after an absurd 8 years of comical speculation, is a record that has displayed an aging into the dark areas of mortality. Jesse Lacey references himself and his career without the spitfire “tongue-firmly-in-cheek” placement. Sonically, the album recollects moments of all their records, without the eye on the extravagant or conceptual. This is, if anything, a record of unrivaled self-awareness and vulnerability- a record that chronicles an actual person who is admittedly torn asunder with their own fame and creative limits. You don’t need the 2000-2018 t-shirts and the speculative nature of their nauseatingly obtuse marketing to know that something, whatever it may be, has died here.