“Do you want to start the game again?”: Brockhampton changes its pace with “iridescence”

(RCA Records.)

After the success of their “Saturation” trilogy and the departure of rapper and alleged predator Ameer Vann, “America’s favorite boy band,” Brockhampton, is trying to reinvent itself with “iridescence,” the first entry in a new trilogy, “The Best Years of our Lives.”

While Saturations I-III marked a brilliant introduction to the group, both the songs and the albums themselves began to feel formulaic – each record had three skits, ended with a lovesick ballad from singer bearface and most tracks were led by infectious hooks from founding member and mastermind, Kevin Abstract.

On “iridescence,” Abstract only takes the chorus on four of the album’s 15 tracks. Some even ditch the verse-chorus-verse formula altogether.

As soon as Abstract compared “iridescence” to Radiohead’s “Kid A,” one of the most creative, groundbreaking, and polarizing albums of all time, expectations were high for Brockhampton to deliver something new.

So, did they? Yes and no.

The production on “iridescence” is by far the best the group has released. From the sampled engine revving on “BERLIN” to the orchestral climax of “SAN MARCOS,” producers Romil, Kiko, and Jabari break new ground on nearly every track.

The instrumental on each song evolves to fit the unique styles of each member, and sometimes, specifically on “HONEY,” a track will drastically change tone midway through.

The album was produced at Abbey Road Studios with some of the same equipment The Beatles used to record “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” As a result, “iridescence” features Brockhampton’s cleanest production yet.

“Saturation” served as an introduction to the band, giving each member a handful of times to truly shine on each album. Here, “iridescence” puts more emphasis on some of the members who didn’t get as much exposure in the “Saturation” era. JOBA and bearface prove themselves to be the most versatile members of the band with their sweetly sung verses on “TONYA” and rapped verses on “J’OUVERT.”

JOBA and bearface really are the stars of the show here. However, some members, surprisingly, seem a bit left out. Fan-favorite Matt Champion really doesn’t have a single standout verse. And Abstract, who usually takes center stage, only has one or two.

Dom McLennon shines as always, delivering what is perhaps his best verse yet on “HONEY.”

This album also stands as the band’s first release with featured artists. Jaden Smith’s inclusion on the opener, “NEW ORLEANS,” is more or less inconsequential. On the other hand, alt R&B artist serpentwithfeet – who put out his fantastic debut, “soil,” this summer –  provides the chorus on “TONYA,” one of the most beautiful moments on the album.

While it’s not the team effort the “Saturation” albums were, “iridescence” is the mark of an exciting new direction for Brockhampton that long-time fans and newcomers alike should be excited for.

 

Grade: B

“iridescence” shows Brockhampton’s production is at its peak but lacks the cohesion of previous efforts.

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