iridescence by Brockhampton
Brockhampton released their highly-anticipated iridescence last Friday, showcasing their signature frenetic energy while foreshadowing the group’s growth potential as they continue to develop. The bar was set high for an album that changed its title and release date three times after the self-proclaimed boy band signed their first major record deal with RCA. On top of mounting pressure to bounce back from the controversy of booting founding member Ameer Vann for sexual harassment allegations earlier this year, Brockhampton delivers an all-in-one package of fun, raw, serious, sweet and sentimental for the first installment of their THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES trilogy.
A friend once proclaimed to me that Brockhampton is the voice of our Millennial generation.
As a self-proclaimed “Stan” of collectives like The Internet and Odd Future – I found that statement insulting. Iridescence, however, makes me think my friend may have a point. After an initial listen, I thought it was a disjointed mess. The more I sat with the album, the more it shined in three distinct parts. While the first third of the album is hard to make sense of, “BERLIN” allows Dom McLennon and Matt Champion to come out from Vann’s long-gone shadow over Sleigh Bells-esque beats. “SOMETHING ABOUT HIM” may seem like a throwaway song, but it plays a key role in establishing de-facto leader Kevin Abstract’s emotional vulnerability, which punctures the listener throughout the record.
iridescence is the epitome of every smart stoner kid I knew in high school procrastinating a paper until the last minute. The album’s fulcrum is “WEIGHT,” where Abstract exemplifies the confusion and pain associated with topics like queer identity and mental health. Its lyrical heartstrings are accompanied by literal musical strings and (in a move that could only be pulled off by Brockhampton) auto-tune. The bridge even flashed me back to the first time I heard Radiohead’s In Rainbows. The British influences throughout the album are highlights, notably trip hop’s role at the center of “DISTRICT.” It cleared up a lot of questions when I found out the band recorded the album in ten days at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London.
There is no guessing where any song on iridescence will end up, and it is the album’s one constant of unpredictability that successfully allows the group to break up dance anthems with serious content and somber songs with lightheartedness. Make no mistake about it, though – the band is still at their finest when they make listeners want to slam their bodies into a mosh pit like I do with “J’OUVERT,” which borrows its title and soca inspirations from Caribbean street parties during Carnival. It sounds like exactly what I would expect from a Brockhampton street party. They casually slide in a Beyonce sample on “HONEY,” rounding out the strongest section of songs of the LP.
The largest departure from the SATURATION series is, of course, the absence of Ameer Vann, who was literally the face of every album of their previous trilogy. The band spends the last act of iridescence addressing the tolls of fame and scandal, most obviously on “TONYA.” Abstract laments “I hated songs about fame ‘cause that stuff meant nothin’/Until them headlines came then first flight I’m stuck in,” while Merlyn Wood has to remind himself: “Don’t think too fast/Private jets still crash.” It was a refreshing surprise to hear them directly reference the drama from earlier this year through their music, which can only add value to their catalog if my buddy is going to call them the mouthpiece for Millennials in the age of #MeToo. If any part of Brockhampton’s narrative feels unrelatable, it’s the anonymity they can no longer return to after signing a $15 million deal. While complaining about the BBC’s reporting on the controversy may seem out of touch, “FABRIC” could be seen as an allegory about the anxiety of not being in control. What 20-something hasn’t felt like “You don’t understand why I can’t get up and shout?”
For the longest time, my friend used to say that Odd Future was good but that they would be great once they personally and musically matured. With constant comparisons they couldn’t dodge (especially because Ameer Vann audibly sounds so much like Tyler the Creator) Brockhampton shows up on iridescence proving that their learning curve is steep and that a setback wouldn’t break up the boy band. I loved every subsequent SATURATION album more than the one that preceded it. It might be an unfair expectation, but if Brockhampton keeps it up, we’re in for a good time with THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.
written on September 24, 2018
by Minh Ha