Long heralded as one of the giants of emo music, Brand New took quite a break between their fourth and fifth records.
After “Daisy,” the band fell off the face of the earth for eight years, leaving fans clamoring for more.
Now, finally, the band released their fifth LP, “Science Fiction,” and it seems that the band spent that time crafting something remarkable.
But before we talk too much about the album, I’d like to take a moment to make a confession about myself: “emo,” as a genre, is something that totally passed me by while it was at its height. Bands like Bright Eyes, American Football and, yes, Brand New just weren’t in my middle school rotation when everyone else was freaking out about them.
Instead, I sort of happened into the genre later in life, backing into it from shoegaze, which was itself introduced to me through black metal. It’s a weird progression, I know, but all of this is to say that I wasn’t one of the fans clamoring for “Science Fiction” for eight years.
But this album is so good that it makes me wish I were one of the folks waiting for it.
The album is moody and spacey (perhaps fitting, considering its title), as becomes immediately obvious with the album’s opener, “Lit Me Up,” an eerie and plodding track that almost stalks the listener.
The track opens with an unsettling sample of a therapist discussing a dream with a patient, before lead singer Jesse Lacey moves into lyrics that seem to describe a sudden, violent revelation that “lit (him) up” like “a witch in a Puritan town.” Lacey even seems to channel Swans’ Michael Gira with his gravelly delivery, especially on the cathartic line “When I grow up, I wanna be a heretic.”
Speaking of heresy, “Science Fiction” continues a theme of Brand New’s, in that religion — and its problems —serves as a major motif.
“Could Never Be Heaven,” one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking cuts on the album, is an obvious place to start when we’re looking at religion on “Science Fiction,” as Lacey croons to some lost listener that it “Could never be heaven without you.” But it goes a bit deeper than that.
In the second verse, Lacey sings, “I was drowning in the lake, damned / Over a dead mining town.” The placement of the word damned in one line and not the other is interesting, as it suggests that Lacey is the one damned, instead of just the lake being dammed. This suggests Lacey is not just deprived of heaven without the…