Title: ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE
Label: RCA / Question Everything
Released: 09 April 2021
2. CHAIN ON
3. COUNT ON ME
5. THE LIGHT
7. I'LL TAKE YOU ON
8. OLD NEWS
9. WHAT'S THE OCCASION
10. WHEN I BALL
11. DON'T SHOOT UP THE PARTY
12. DEAR LORD
13. THE LIGHT PT. II
Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine
"The light is worth the wait
I promise, wait
Screaming please don't do it"
BROCKHAMPTON are approaching their final record. Earlier this year, Kevin Abstract tweeted that the band would only be releasing two more albums together, with “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” dropping not long after the announcement. And though BROCKHAMPTON may have been a relatively short-lived project, it’s also been a highly formative one for everyone involved. A lot has happened since the group released their ambitious “SATURATION” trilogy back in 2017; they’ve garnered a huge following, received numerous accolades, but also suffered various personal tragedies. It’s been a lucrative, yet tumultuous road for BROCKHAMPTON, made only more difficult with the subsequent banishment of one of their core members, due to various abuse allegations.
Ameer Vann’s departure had left the group wounded, and scrambling to pick up the broken pieces that had been left behind. An entire album; ‘PUPPY’, was scrapped in its almost finished form, and the band instead rushed to deliver a completely new record in the following months, resulting in the release of “Iridescence”. This was a good album, with a selection of fantastic tracks, but in many ways felt as though it had been glued together like a piece of smashed pottery. The fractures were still clear; time hadn’t been taken to heal and meditate on what had happened; and it wasn’t until “GINGER” released in 2019 that the group would actually do so. While I was fairly lukewarm towards “GINGER” upon release, it’s an album that has only managed to grow on me since. The cracks that the band had tried to conceal in “Iridescence” were now purposefully visible, coated in gold. And it resulted in an album that was far sadder, but also softer, more intimate, and more cohesive than any of their previous releases. While it didn’t have the same level of variety or single potential as the “SATURATION” trilogy, it was a necessary detour for the group, tackling various personal issues, and addressing the afflictions that the band had suffered due to the betrayal of their former member.
But now, it seems that the band are slowly reaching their programmed death. And this puts “ROADRUNNER” in a strange position. It’s not quite the group’s swansong, but it’s also responsible for choosing which direction the band want to steer their music for BROCKHAMPTON’s final days. Would they continue to create more melancholic, contemplative tracks, similarly to “GINGER”? Or would they return to exploring multitudes of genres, moods, and styles, similarly to the “SATURATION” trilogy? The answer, as it turned out, was a bit of both.
“ROADRUNNER” is an amalgamation of everything that the group has done so far. While not being as varied or eclectic as the “SATURATION” trilogy, there are hints of the energy and strength of those albums in tracks here such as ‘BUZZCUT’, ‘BANKROLL’, and ‘DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY’. And although not being as focused on each of the band’s personal struggles as “GINGER”, there are plenty of moments throughout “ROADRUNNER” which discuss depression and tragedy in a similar light. Notably, there is a distinct focal point on Joba throughout the record, as he discusses his father’s suicide and the horrifying effects it has had on him. ‘THE LIGHT’ and ‘THE LIGHT PT. II’ are the biggest instances of this, with Joba delivering two of the best, most heartbreaking verses of his career. And in the process of these ruminations, the album’s key theme is revealed; hope, expressed through the motif of light. This is something that appears again and again throughout “ROADRUNNER”, and it’s representative of both where the band has ended up, as well as their hope and optimism for where they’re going. While they’ve suffered through a lot together, they’ve still managed to emerge from those experiences and step into the light. In ‘THE LIGHT PT. II’, Joba recognises that despite the turmoil he’s faced since the loss of his father, he’ll still eventually find a way out of the darkness. The pain won’t necessarily pass, but over time, its impact will.
“WHAT’S THE OCCASION” deals with the effects of this directly; with Matt and Joba delivering great verses aside a sombre hook, discussing depression and a lack of motivation. And although the lyrics stay sorrowful throughout, the song actually elevates into a soaring, cathartic finale. It’s one of the highlights on the record for me, and although the track never finds its own moment of consolation, its conclusion still manages to resonate as hopeful, once again reflecting the album’s core theme of ‘The Light’.
But “ROADRUNNER” isn’t grief-stricken from start to finish. In fact, its opening moments with ‘BUZZCUT’, accompanied by the legendary Danny Brown, immediately set the scene for a raucous, hard-hitting collection of bangers. As the leading single for the record, ‘BUZZCUT’ is BROCKHAMPTON at their finest. Spearheaded by Kevin and Danny, the track is an absolute blast, discussing the group’s success, as well as the personal effects that the pandemic and lockdown have had on Abstract. From here, ‘COUNT ON ME’ and ‘BANKROLL’ are the two biggest tracks off “ROADRUNNER”, with some of the catchiest hooks and most significant features on the record. A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg take most of the spotlight throughout ‘BANKROLL’, and while it isn’t one of my favourite songs here, it clearly has the most potential to become a hit. ‘COUNT ON ME’, on the other hand, I think is really great. While I think that both of these tracks could ease off the features a little, and focus more on giving equal attention to each of the BH members, ‘COUNT ON ME’ is still a really solid pop song which will no doubt become one of the most popular tracks off of “ROADRUNNER”.
Speaking of giving more time to the core members of BROCKHAMPTON, ‘DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY’ is an absolute banger that does the best job of designating parts to each of the boys. It’s the most maximal the group have sounded since ‘Iridescence’, and speaks to issues of gun violence and racism in America. And while more time could have been given to Bearface and Merlin, who unfortunately feel side-lined throughout “ROADRUNNER”, it’s somewhat made up for with the following track; the absolutely stunning, stripped back ‘DEAR LORD’. This song is almost entirely delivered through a cappella by Bearface, and although it doesn’t quite live up to his performances in the final moments of each of the “SATURATION” albums, it’s a beautiful and welcome moment of solace in “ROADRUNNER”.
However, while including several highlights, “ROADRUNNER” also suffers from a few tracks which don’t particularly gel with the rest of the album. After the exhilarating opener, ‘BUZZCUT’, ‘CHAIN ON’ immediately extinguishes any momentum that the album may have built up. While featuring the incredibly talented JPEGMAFIA, including some fantastic lyricism from him and Dom, the entire track feels so incredibly lethargic and repetitive. The beat is really uninspired, and unfortunately brings both performances down, only feeling as though it’s making an interesting development in the final few seconds of the track. This is the only song which feels particularly out of place in “ROADRUNNER”, but it’s situated in such a critical moment in the track-list, and in the process kicks the album off with a stumble.
Apart from this, “ROADRUNNER” is a really solid and consistent record, including several great songs, some good ones, and just a few that don’t sit that well in the track-listing. While it’s not quite as strong as any of the “SATURATION” records, which managed to strike lightning in the same place three times in a row, it’s a great continuation from “GINGER” that shows a lot of growth. If BROCKHAMPTON really do only have one final album up their sleeve, then they’ve had a great career together. And unless they decide to pull a massive left turn for their concluding record, then the sound that they’ve reached with “ROADRUNNER” indicates they’ll likely stick the landing. BROCKHAMPTON have been a prolific group throughout the last half-decade, but their immense productivity has led to an abundance of fantastic music. “ROADRUNNER” is no different, and when they finally do decide to part ways, it’ll be remembered as a great album from the self-proclaimed World’s Greatest Boyband.
"A million little pieces
All add up to nothin' lately
Swim within my bedsheets
It's somethin' like a celebration
What's the occasion?"
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 12/07/2021
23/7/21, 9:43 am
such a wonderful, passionate review 🤍
15/7/21, 8:01 am
so proud of u, such a great and succinct review xo
15/7/21, 7:57 am
9/7/21, 11:54 am
what an incredible review!! one of my favourites of the year 🥰💓
5/7/21, 2:29 am
another wonderful review!!! x
3/7/21, 7:03 am
another great review from my favourite music reviewer🤍🤍🤍
3/7/21, 6:48 am
YEEESSSS I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on My Love Is Cool, one of my faves album EVER
3/7/21, 6:46 am
One day I'm gonna have to listen to all these albums because of all these great reviews! Can't wait for a Hamilton or Frozen review...??? 👀👀👀 Maybe a cheeky Bo Burnham review????
1/7/21, 6:42 am
YES!!! COMMENTS AND BACK!!!! HOW DID THIS SMART MAN DO IT???!!!
1/7/21, 6:40 am
yay!! comments are back!! love this review, and you!🤍