Record #425: Brand New – Science Fiction (2017)

Last week, my friend Dan texted me. “Jesse Lacey, man.”

I didn’t need to try very hard to figure out what had happened. The fallout from the #metoo movement has gone Scorched Earth on the entertainment world. It was easy to put two and two together.

The next day, I got an email: my vinyl preorder of Brand New’s newest album had finally shipped. I had been eagerly awaiting it, but now, it sort of tied my stomach in knots.

But at the same time, I still really wanted to listen to it. I enjoyed it enough to buy it, after all.

The news (refresher here) was heinous, but it wasn’t surprising. Jesse has always painted himself as a too-smooth-for-his-own-good scoundrel who can’t be trusted. I, for one, have always believed him. He sang in “You Won’t Know,” “your daughters weren’t careful / I fear that I am a slippery slope.” Since the news came out, I’ve dug deep into some of his lyrics. The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me made it clear that Jesse Lacey was facing his demons. These allegations put a face to those demons.

But even though he was wrestling through some absolutely deplorable actions, that doesn’t change the influence that that album has had on me. TDAGARIM has already inspired set the lyrical tone for my first album—that can’t be undone. It also doesn’t change what happened within me when I heard “The Archers Bows Have Broken” for the first time. It may have tainted the experience a bit, but the impact the band has had on me has already happened.

Because despite the heinous things that artists have done (and rock and roll is littered with terrible rock and roll antics), our listening has always been driven by our response to the music rather than what the artist put into it.

And even in the face of rock stars’ terrible treatment of young girls, it’s possible to engage with a work of art with the full acknowledgement that it’s deeply problematic (possible virtue signal: I’ve never cared for the first two albums, which were written during these relationships).

So while I can’t gush over this album the way I maybe would have, I can’t deny that it’s a masterful work by a band that (since TDAGARIM anyway) has never been afraid to take pop punk into darker territory—even if that territory is a bit darker than we could have imagined.

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