BROCKHAMPTON leave their signature ebullience behind to process grief and prepare for the setting sun in ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE.
Dusk is fast approaching for BROCKHAMPTON, the LA-based collective of creatives that gave the term ‘boyband’ a fresh coat of paint when they burst onto the scene in the mid-2010s. In literal terms: their new album, ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE, is one of two LPs set for release this year before a programmed disbandment–as announced by group founder Kevin Abstract. In figurative terms too: the latest addition to BROCKHAMPTON’s body of work casts the band in a new light as they forgo their sun-kissed accents to dive into heavier matter.
At the heart of the album is band member Joba’s reaction to his father’s recent suicide. In addition to a dedicated prayer led by bearface on ‘DEAR LORD’, Joba is given the space to air out feelings and questions on ‘THE LIGHT’ and its subsequent encore (‘THE LIGHT PT. II’) that turn out to be the emotional crux of ROADRUNNER. Abstract contributes to the poignancy of both tracks to no lesser extent as he explains all he has to deal with as a gay Black man in America, through his Texas upbringing and a strained mother-son relationship. He admits: “I still struggle with tellin’ my mom who I’m in love with”, grappling the unspoken dilemmas of being out as a gay man to all and still being unable to open himself up in a space deemed unwelcoming.
ROADRUNNER still features some of the group’s trademark braggadocio; though, when it does, it’s mostly through slanted remarks and brief diversions from the tempest. In true BROCKHAMPTON tradition, even the intensely collaborative moments are opportunities for introspection. Between the ridiculously enthralling opener ‘BUZZCUT’ with Danny Brown, the nonchalant JPEGMAFIA feature on ‘CHAIN ON’ and the class photo montage of ‘WINDOWS’, various members tackle their bittersweet RCA deal, generational curses, police brutality and the prison industrial complex.
There’s a fair share of already well-trodden territory in ROADRUNNER: cue the trite melodic pop of ‘OLD NEWS’, a breakup song that doubles as a possible send-off to Joba’s father, the tiresome rolodex-feel of ‘WINDOWS’ and the obstinate bounce of ‘COUNT ON ME’ with a stellar (uncredited) A$AP Rocky verse.
Two tracks stand out as unexplored turf for the band. ‘WHAT’S THE OCCASION’ sulks with a dim 90s indie rock glow that powers through into a 70s power ballad unlike anything we’ve heard from the BROCKHAMPTON camp as of yet. It’s a strange addition to an already wide-spanning catalog.
The other, ‘DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY’ is equally as lustful as it is incensed; it’s a frantic Outkast meets Kaytranada houseparty anthem that ought to become a staple of the band’s catalogue. Under the flickering porchlight, BROCKHAMPTON are basking in their best light, an infectious groove thumping from behind through tinted windows.
In a relatively short run BROCKHAMPTON have risen out of anonymity into the forces that are currently taking the industry by storm. They recorded 2018’s Iridescence at Abbey Roads and they’ll now be playing a show broadcast from Rick Rubin’s legendary Malibu studio to celebrate ROADRUNNER’s release. The co-signs are all the validation fans wanted for the band, cementing a cult status few contemporary outfits have earned as quickly.
There are no better career launch pads to send respective solo endeavors and future creative efforts into orbit. But before that, BROCKHAMPTON has one more album in the belly. We’ll be there to welcome the newborn with open eyes and open ears.
BROCKHAMPTON’s ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE is available to stream and download now