It makes sense that this is considered a continuation of their “THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES” trilogy, because this sonically feels like a continuation of the colorful and experimental production of “iridescence”. On “ROADRUNNER”, there’s beat switch ups, g-funk synths, wailing sirens, booming 808’s, headphone pan porn, incorporations of Kanye inspired gospel, elements of alternative rock, and even the inclusion of an almost entirely acapella track towards the very end. Even the few tracks that sound similar to “GINGER” feel bigger and more layered, and the heavier use of features really changes the dynamics of how the members play off each other. If I had one complaint about this record, however, it’s that the heavy use of features makes the band dynamic feel uneven, as some songs feel more like collab tracks that feature one of the boys and members like Merlyn, Dom, and Bearface feel like they’re absent through much of this record, though they’re absolutely fantastic whenever they do appear and I can see this factor not being a huge issue with my enjoyment of this record (I’ve yet to settle on a final rating as I’m writing this).
I think one big difference between this and “iridescence”, however, is that BROCKHAMPTON somehow found a way to keep the experimental nature of that record while maintaining the swagger that the group had on the SATURATION trilogy. While there are definitely heavier moments on the record - and believe me, I will talk about them - this record is much less moody than “iridescence” and “GINGER” often were, and the band seems to be having much more fun making this record than previous releases. The group sounds boastful, confident, and hungry once again, and the beats have a banging bounce that was kept to a minimum on their most recent records.
That said, there are definitely heavier moments on “ROADRUNNER” that shouldn’t be ignored. For one, there’s definitely a recurring theme of racism and police brutality that appears on this project. Racism has been a theme for the band before, but I don’t think it’s been talked about with so much nuance before, as the group addresses colonization, police’s preferential treatment of white people, incarceration for crimes black people didn’t commit, killing poc for nonviolent crimes, even how Eurocentrism affects Kevin’s sexuality. Clearly last year’s Black Lives Matter protests weighed heavy on BROCKHAMPTON’s minds, and they tackle these issues in a way that I don’t think they would have been able to back in 2017.
Another big theme that persists throughout “ROADRUNNER” is friendship and being there for your loved ones in their time of need. This is also not a new theme for BROCKHAMPTON, but there’s definitely a significant difference when you see it in context with Joba’s narrative arch throughout the album. During the recording of this record, Joba’s dad committed suicide by shooting himself, and it becomes a topic that Joba talks about in detail throughout the album. It’s not discussed through subtext or throw away lines either, there are multiple times where Joba explicitly talks about what happened to his dad, going as far as to describe the scene of the incident, how its affected him and his mom, how lonely he feels because of it, and how confused and heartbroken he is from what happened. This makes the recurring theme of being a shoulder for your loved ones have a much heavier undertone, and I can’t help but feel sincere empathy for Joba as well as all the other members.
This is an incredible album for a band that’s discography is filled with incredible albums. “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE” surpassed my expectations and as BROCKHAMPTON’s run is supposedly coming to a close in the near future, I’m glad that it looks like they’re going to come out on top and refined.
That album art kinda ugly tho