Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Brand New: Science Fiction


1) Lit Me Up; 2) Canʼt Get It Out; 3) Waste; 4) Could Never Be Heaven; 5) Same Logic / Teeth; 6) 137; 7) Out Of Mana; 8) In The Water; 9) Desert; 10) No Control; 11) 451; 12) Batter Up.

General verdict: Deadly dull third-rate alt-rockisms. If this is the way depression is pictured in rock music nowadays, thereʼs just no fun in depression any more.

The world seems to literally demand a punny joke out of you when you set out to review an album by a 17-year old band that still calls itself Brand New, doesnʼt it? You could probably find a cop out by saying that, since Brand New had not released a record since 2009, this is like a brand new beginning for them... except that the band broke up upon completing the sessions, and has openly stated that Science Fiction was intended to be their farewell gesture.

Perhaps it was this very statement that prompted all the positive reviews — because as far as I am concerned, this is just another Brand New record: not too bad, not too good, nothing particularly memorable or particularly horrendous. It sounds a little slower, a little more quiet, a little more dedicated to «subtle, suspenseful gloom» than «angsty, wailing gloom», which, I guess, is to be expected of a band that got eight more years behind its back and now wants to make an atmo­spheric exit with a wave of smooth chill. Unfortunately, the eight years in question have not made them into better songwriters, players, arrangers, or showmen.

Let me just explain my feelings by concentrating on the first and last tracks on the record — otherwise I feel like I might trip, slip, and do some permanent damage to my brain. ʽLit Me Upʼ begins with soft layers of electronic hum and a tape recording: "This tape recounts a dream which occurred close to the termination of approximately 400 hours of intensive individual therapy...", upon which the lady patient begins telling her dream — which is boring, in case you were hoping for some Vincent Price type of moment. Once the lethargic, emotionless narrative is over and the song itself begins, Science Fiction has lifted its curtain and established its vibe — a slow, gray, limp, atmospheric vibe that might be the right thing for you if you, too, have just terminated approximately 400 hours of intensive individual therapy. (Though Iʼd rather recommend ʽSunny Girlfriendʼ by The Monkees, rather than go on wallowing in your own pain). But the smooth hum of the smooth trip-hoppy bass and the dull-ringing sustained bluesy chords of the heavily treated electric guitars never go one inch beyond simple, monotonous ambience — and I cannot even tell how many times in my life I have already had to endure that crap, Just Because The Sincerely Inspired Artist Has To Convey The Dulling Of His Emotional Receptors By Making Music That Goes Absolutely Nowhere And Makes A Big Fucking Point Out Of It.

At the very least, if you are making a song like that, by all means do not accompany it with lyrics like "It lit me up like a torch on a pitch black night / Lit me up and I burn from the inside out / Yeah I burn like a witch in a Puritan town", because on paper this seems like something off a Def Leppard album — in practice it sounds like Robert Smith on sedatives after liposuction. And since we already know that Jesse Lacey has always had a hard time making his emotional pain believable, it would take a real good jolt to make ʽLit Me Upʼ change oneʼs biases. But there is no jolting here, just 400 hours of intensive individual therapy.

Fast forward many many many endless miles of routine depression — and meet ʽBatter Upʼ, a nine-minute long epic closer. Now you might expect something to happen over nine minutes of music, right? After the first two or three minutes of its endless acoustic loop, sonically pleasant but melodically every bit as original as a James Taylor song from the 1990s, it slowly began to dawn on me that this is going to end exactly the way that it started, and is not going to go any­where different in the middle — and I was almost right, except that the last couple of minutes consisted of yet more quiet humming noises. "Itʼs never going to stop / Batter up / Itʼs never going to stop / Batter up". (Since my baseball vocabulary is horrible, I had to actually look up ʽbatter upʼ in the dictionary. Still not sure that I understand completely what it means, but it did come to my attention that it is an anagram for ʽbutt-rapeʼ, and you know, that feels just about right at the moment).

In between ʽLit Me Upʼ and ʽBatter Upʼ ten more songs are stuck, and after three listens I do not remember a single one of them. I do remember that some sounded like third-rate REM and a few sounded like second-rate Pearl Jam; a couple featured annoying screaming vocals and a couple tried to rock out, but mostly it was just that slow bluesy grayness all over. Oh yeah, ʽ451ʼ sounded like a watered-down Black Keys song. Did I miss anything?

Yes, for the record, Science Fiction got generally positive reviews and is currently featured in RateYourMusicʼs Top 30 albums for 2017. All I can say is that if this kind of music is now held to be symbolic of rock in the late 2010s, then rock is not just dead, it is deeply submerged in embalming fluid, and Science Fiction is that fluid. I swear to God, one of the critics called this «the Abbey Road of emo» or something. I do not know all that much about emo, but if this analogy is even barely hinting at the truth, I shudder to think what the Please Please Me of emo could ever have sounded like.

1 comment:

  1. I like 'In the Water'. It's like Red House Painters being a little more lively. Thanks for considering the album for your review though