Brockhampton - iridescence
“Praise God, Hallelujah… I’m still depressed!”.
These bars from the ever moody and versatile JOBA on “DISTRICT” speak volumes to the expectations these BROCKHAMPTON boys were under during the long months leading up to their new album iridescence. Only half a year has passed since the group’s Saturation Trilogy came to an end, but this could be a lifetime to the youth who make up the majority of their fanbase.
NME writer Danny Greenwald, speaking on Rites Of Spring and the emo movement, defines the evolving genre with an observation: “ to hear (her) talk about Rites of Spring is to hear any teenager from any era talk about the bands that mattered to them, and that, above all else, is the thread from Rites to Dashboard Confessional to the internet and beyond.” Beyond is now BROCKHAMPTON, the self-determined “best boy band in the world”, whose recent move to a major label had devotees wondering if they would still be the same. Well Hallelujah, they are still depressed.
Yes, the angst is still intact, although more reflective now. And there are new issues: Matt Champion has a lawyer, Kevin Abstract is ready to trade fame for a quiet place back home. The ever-present cloud over iridescence is the ouster of Ameer Vann in May, a shadow that shows in both the bleaker outlook of the lyrics and the elevation of singer Bearface, who appears more frequently on this project than any other.
Many fans have been surprised by his rap contributions on “BERLIN” and “J’OUVERT”, both typically grimy productions featuring distorted bass, snappy drums, and suspenseful lead melodies. On “Fireman” inspired “NEW ORLEANS”, Dom McLennon asserts himself as the group’s bar-for-bar best right now with a flow influenced by Kendrick Lamar at his most antagonistic: “Situation is dire, hear them calls from the choir/ The disposition acquired from my position on Earth is telling me ‘Decapitate everything for what it's worth!’/ When I die, these words gon' need separate caskets in a hearse” displays the central theme of paranoia; when you and your friends became millionaires overnight maybe the contract you signed begins to look like the devil’s.
In keeping with the formula of their prior releases, BROCKHAMPTON balance the darker, harder hitting tracks with selections more restrained and intimate, like the alternative-rock singalong “SAN MARCOS”, with its clean guitar arpeggios and auto-tuned crooning, or “TONYA” and its flat plateau of impressionistic piano. Kevin Abstract delivers a unique to rap account of homosexuality’s inner turmoil over cinematic strings on “WEIGHT”, coming off as the 21st century’s James Baldwin.
It’s these less undertaken perspectives that enamor the group to so many, whether it’s the comical Hollywood comparisons of “STAR” or Matt Champion’s all-out assault against those who hurt women on “JUNKY”. While iridescence is not an immediate fixation and suffers from noticeable lack of catchy hooks compared to the prior Trilogy, it’s an album that is made with the same evident attention to detail, flow, and texture, and a continuing document of perhaps the most cohesive, experimental, and authentic rap collective since Dungeon Family.