A sensory overload that doesn't always feel in control
Hannah Browne
16:03 9th April 2021

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Sunset is fast approaching on the horizon of BROCKHAMPTON’s California dream. In verbatim: their new album ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE will be the first of two albums the L.A.-based/Texas-formed boyband release in 2021, which will also be their last. 

For a while, it felt like BROCKHAMPTON would never slow down. Their stellar 2017 album trio Saturation, was closely followed by 2018’s Iridescence and 2019’s Ginger; though, the years weren’t always smooth sailing. After gathering momentum as one of the most exciting acts in the world, they kicked out band member Ameer Vann following sexual assault allegations, regrouped, and have grappled with the cult eclecticism and unharnessed energy they are known for ever since. 

The latter issue transpires on ROADRUNNER as the hyper-speciality of the package BROCKHAMPTON arrived in half a decade ago is fraught with inner turmoil. It’s a subtle burst incorporating gospel, smooth R&B, alt-pop, and trap in equal measure.

Opening on the single ‘BUZZCUT’, the group launch themselves with an untameable punk edge in collaboration with Detroit icon Danny Brown. Brown’s verse is a welcome shake-up to the typical BROCKHAMPTON formula – a persistent pattern throughout the album’s duration. Elsewhere, JPEGMAFIA’s nonchalant, Wu-Tang sampled feature ‘CHAIN ON’ is closely followed by A$AP Rocky adding new sonic textures to the chorus of ‘BANKROLL’.

‘DON’T SHOOT UP THE PARTY’ has BROCKHAMPTON playing to their strengths; it’s a frantic GTA San Andreas soundtrack meets Kaytranada house-groove with a murky social commentary that keeps the group’s trademark braggadocio alight. Still, disorientation remains pertinent with Joba’s narrative of his father’s recent suicide becoming the album’s emotional crux - tackled across ‘THE LIGHT’ and its subsequent encore ‘THE LIGHT PT.II’.

Seven projects in, and sensory overload seems to be at the nucleus of BROCKHAMPTON’s discography. Yet where the group was once in control and self-aware, ROADRUNNER has multiple missteps which edge on the fractured and insecure. It’s hard to pin down why it feels like BROCKHAMPTON sound in need of reinvention themselves, despite their innovative ability to carry consistent themes against an ever-changing palette sounds; but as they wrap up for their penultimate album, one can only hope that BROCKHAMPTON’s particular brand of magic, individuality, and unity becomes tighter than ever. 


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Photo: Press