ALBUM REVIEW: Iridescence by Brockhampton

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My listens of Brockhampton’s “Iridescence” and consequent perusal of the internet for professional opinion on the album were both met with astonishment. This album is not Saturation, nor is it the Things We Lost In The Fire singles or even their most early work, All-American Trash. It exists as its own beast, a dissonant ringing in your ears that, beneath lukewarm synths and swaying choral samples, gives you the vaguest impression of a Brockhampton album. As much as it pains me to admit, this isn’t going to be another voice in the backlogged mass of internet music reviewers telling you that this album is one of the most profound successes of the year. Despite being a self-proclaimed Brockhampton ride or die, I was left squinting into the void to the outro of Fabric, searching for some common thread, the je ne sais quoi that upholds every other Brockhampton album, and coming up empty.

Iridescence isn’t bad -- I don’t want anyone to think this is my ultimate hot take -- but it lacks the gravitas that the boyband has deliberately pummeled into every single bass-thumping, ALL CAPS track prior to this collection. SAN MARCOS feels empty, a dazzling array of simplistic guitar chords, autotuned crooning and weepy background vocals that’s meant to distract you from the uncharacteristically wooden lyrics. It almost seems as if it’s trying to mimic the sensation of LAMB, SUMMER and BLEACH but missing the mark, using a choral fadeout and emotional strings to try and pack an emotional punch that they one provided lyrically.

SOMETHING ABOUT HIM falls into the same trap; a serious, synthy slow jam that feigns emotional depth while not necessarily communicating anything groundbreakingly profound. WHERE THE CASH AT feels like a N.E.R.D. B-side, with off-kilter beats and discordant pulses of sound permeating Merlyn’s standout performance. However, its sound doesn’t seem to find its footing alongside the rest of the album, interrupting the flow for experimentalism in a way that doesn’t quite land.

Standouts on the album still provide the listener with that acerbic sonic bite that we’ve all grown to expect from the band -- WEIGHT is a beautiful, genuine piece where frontman Kevin Abstract bares it all in a way deeply reminiscent of his older solo work on “American Boyfriend.” The lyrics “And every time she took her bra off my dick would get soft/I thought I had a problem, kept my head inside a pillow screaming” are especially resonant and capture the essence of the song -- vulnerable but not gimmicky, something that’s rare to find on the album but, in the case of WEIGHT, all of the stars align and grant the listener a soulful, memorable standout track.

Dom and Joba are standout voices on NEW ORLEANS, an upbeat album-opening banger that is the most sonically comparable to the “Saturation”-era canon. Where “Saturation” was about being a bad bitch, however, “Iridescence” tackles being a sad bitch, which is witnessed in this track’s lyrics: condemnation of the millennial generation, fighting to regain their footing after their involvement in the Ameer Vann scandal earlier this year, and a general weariness for the cutthroat nature of their industry.

In J’OUVERT, Joba’s new direction in his vocal brand is a resounding success -- lower pitched, more serious, darker and grounded, he sounds significantly more grown despite the last album being barely a year old. This track also follows the trend of sad bangers, wherein members Matt Champion, Dom McLennon and Joba criticize the shiny, fake veneer of the entertainment world.

TAPE’s lo-fi, nu-jazz-esque beat was an unexpected but not unwelcome diversion from the album that proved the boys hadn’t lost their penchant for stirring, impassioned lyricism. Matt and Dom are standouts on this track, closing out the jam with an overwhelmingly biting dialogue on losing yourself to fame and, consequently, the struggle of finding yourself again.

TONYA, a track they released earlier this summer when they performed it on Fallon, is a distinct diversion from their typical sound and from the album itself. A gorgeous track with beautiful instrumentals, an impeccable beat and candid lyrics discussing how life has changed after success, it feels slightly more traditional and, consequently, out of place on this album. Like many of the other tracks, it disrupts a flow that’s almost there but hasn’t quite hit home, despite being a stunning standalone work.

Iridescence is not my favorite Brockhampton venture -- the theme is there, but the sonic cohesion and lyrical depth sometimes falls short of the work we’ve grown accustomed by seeing from the boys time and time again.

However, this isn’t to say that the album doesn’t provide a thoughtful and prescient message that is all too relevant to the masses of fame-hungry DIYers that plague the internet today. The message, one of uncertainty, discomfort and even regret, was unquestionably received, and each stream revealed a more intimate level of the malaise in which the album was steeped. These boys are tired; of fame, of success, of the money, of all the fake friends and fake love.

Their journey is unique and harrowing and you can hear them struggling with it on this album -- and, perhaps, their inability to totally communicate their feelings is what makes this album complete rather than what pulls it apart at the seams. Use your own judgment and stream Iridescence.

— Jane Keranen

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