On iridescence, Brockhampton reaffirm their status not only as the best boyband on the planet, but also one of the most promising and unique acts of our generation. Their blend of influences and experimentation has moved them to a level above what they achieved on the Saturation trilogy, making a seminal album that will go down as a vital moment in their legacy.
Brockhampton have had quite a turbulent 2018; coming into it full of hope and promise after the critical success of the Saturation trilogy and thus agreeing a record label with RCA to further push their rise. All of this was sent into turmoil when news broke of group member Ameer Vann being accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by multiple women, something which led to his dismissal from group. Brockhampton were one member down and appeared to be at a crossroads. Three singles came out afterwards and while they were great, they sounded like progressions from their previous work rather than daring to make something utterly unique. That’s where Iridescence comes in, the group’s fourth album.
Straight from the off with this album you can hear the change of sound, NEW ORLEANS has a thumping beat with influences of 90s UK garage, a theme that is poignant throughout the album; and they ride the beat with such elegance and swagger it stands tall as a truly incredible album opener. Kevin Abstract’s hook on this song is slick and punchy while Dom McLennon and Matt Champion spit with typically strong flow and confidence. Joba’s verse gives us all a taste of just what to expect from him on this album, he really delivers; and there’s even a Jaden Smith feature? Wild opener.
The next song is THUG LIFE and the transition into that more mellow atmospheric sound is a thing of beauty, with Kevin and Bearface sounding absolutely stunning over a piano-infused beat on this short two-minute cut. The vocal altering adds to the emotions poured out onto this track, particularly from Dom McLennon on his powerful autotuned verse which displays his fragility so elegantly alongside the harmonies from Bearface.
Track three, BERLIN, is a bass heavy blaster of an anthem which contains a great hook from Bearface who appears to have more of a poignant role in the group now, something I love. His hook is very much like a rapped performance which is something we hadn’t heard from him as of yet but it makes for an enthralling listen side by side with the solid verses on the track. It has a very European feel and it is easy to see how influenced the group were by their trip to the continent as well as recording the album in Abbey Road Studios.
Transitioning into the next song with the sort of sound Death Grips would be proud of, SOMETHING ABOUT HIM has a very understated delivery all round and serves as a very cute love ballad from Kevin towards his current boyfriend Jaden Walker. The song is short, sweet and fits into the general feel of the album perfectly; it makes your head sway and while there’s nothing too diverse lyrically, it delivers the required message and that’s more than enough.
Right, WHERE THE CASH AT. Oh my god. The beat sounds like a dirty underground 90s rave sample and needless to say, this song is made by Merlyn’s infectious energy and catchy hook; his involvement in this group must never be underestimated, he is absolutely fantastic. Matt’s verse is brilliant too and the pair’s chemistry oozes through on one of the album’s highest highs.
WEIGHT is next and I’m telling you right now, this is the best verse of Kevin Abstract’s career, he puts it all on the line over an orchestral backing track as he discusses growing up and his troubles with accepting his sexuality. It is utterly heart-wrenching for about 80 seconds but once that beat switch hits, oh my word. The 90s garage influence rears its head once more and it could be the best beat switch up I’ve heard Brockhampton ever do. Dom and Joba offer woke verses about society and how damaging it can be to sensitive people, it speaks volumes to so many people and serves as a staple track for everything the group stand for; absolutely staggering.
DISTRICT has a tough task of following such a powerful song like WEIGHT but it does ultimate justice, starting with heavenly strings before exploding into life with a huge distorted beat. The best part of this song is the chemistry between all the members, jumping onto the track with such smooth intertwined cohesion; right up until the final minute which has a stunning breakdown and another incredible involvement from Bearface who really steps up to the plate on this album as a whole.
LOOPHOLE is a segment from a discussion between the group and serves as an all-encompassing point for the concept of the album; the idea of coping with fame and being in entirely uncharted territory, fear of the unknown but having your best friends by your side to guide you along the way.
TAPE has rapid fire drum beats alongside some angelic piano beats and Kevin truly steals the show here with a powerful vocal performance all about his insecurities and how critics have got to him over time. This instrumental structure is proof of the diversity of Brockhampton’s influences on this album, varying from Radiohead’s Kid A album to the previously mentioned 90s UK drum and bass scene. In terms of pure lyrical content, this could well be the best song on the album, with every single member on this track spilling all their weakness into words to make themselves stronger.
Ah, we have finally reached J’OUVERT. This song was brought out a few hours before the album dropped and from the very first listen I knew it was special. The beat is hilariously good and while everyone is great on it, from Matt Champion’s cold flow, Bearface’s surprise rap stint and Merlyn’s understated bridge; it is Joba who steals the spotlight. His verse is earth-shattering, sounding like Eminem in his prime with sheer anger and venom packed into the verse of a lifetime. Sample wise it is a moment of hometown pride for producer Jabari, as he chops up a traditional track from his native land of Grenada. It was at this very moment of hearing for the first time that I knew this album would be different, but magnificent.
HONEY has a real head bop beat with Kevin riding the wave of the hi-hats and I can’t help but feel that they were hugely influenced by Yeezus era Kanye West with the grimy underground instrumentals before a huge breakdown halfway through into something regal and triumphant. The second half of this song is an absolute journey, and an absolutely beautiful one at that. Sampling their own song BUMP from Saturation 1 for a stint and using 808-styled guitar solos, this has the Kanye stamp all over it and I absolutely love it.
VIVID leads you into a false sense of security, beginning with subtle piano keys before blasting into yet another dirty bass heavy beat and well Matt Champion spitting Spanish words is everything we need in life and more. Dom McLennon snaps on the beat too in a vocal switch up we rarely hear from Dom as he sounds more aggressive than ever in a verse he allegedly wrote and recorded in 45 minutes, wow. This song goes so hard it’s one of the group’s best turn up tracks.
Have fun turning up to VIVID? Cool, well now it’s time for you to get emotional again, because it’s SAN MARCOS next. Kevin Abstract and Bearface once again trade sad boy blows over some beautifully simplistic guitar chords, taking the limelight on one of the group’s hardest-hitting tracks. While it has the feel of being a level above in terms of artistry from the Saturation trilogy, this song reminds me of the latter tracks on Sat 1&2, blending those passionate feelings into beauty on a song. The choir involvement and string section which repeats “I want more out of life than this” is sincere and powerful and I feel that this song could serve as the group’s stand-together anthem with their fans.
Let’s keep the emo coming with TONYA, a song we have heard before when they premiered it on a late night talk show months ago. It was never released as a single but it was clear to see the direction of the group from the raw, brutal honesty of the song. Those piano keys shoot straight through me and remind me massively of something from a Thom Yorke album or something; and well let’s pretend to be shocked that Bearface absolutely blows us all away with his vocals on this song. The featured artist on this song, serpentwithfeet, sings “I’ve been feeling like I don’t matter how I used to” and oh my word that resonates with me hard. Kevin’s verse looks at family, Joba’s at having his heart broken, Dom’s at his coping mechanisms, Merlyn’s at being told he won’t make it out of his turbulent past; all of these play such a huge part in making this song what it is, an acceptance that we aren’t all perfect, far from it, but that’s okay.
The final track is FABRIC, named after the nightclub in London, and again they group discuss their demons and their troubles. Kevin makes a very good point about how Brockhampton were only in the news when bad news came out about them (Ameer’s allegations) rather than all the good they preach. I feel like as a finale, this track wraps things up really well and becomes one last platform for the group to vent any frustrations they have. There isn’t really a typical song structure but that’s what I love most about it, saying no to conformity and doing things on their own terms, the Brockhampton ethos to a T.
Overall? This album is mesmerising, it sent me personally on an emotional rollercoaster; it made me laugh and made me cry, shocked me and intrigued me. This album feels so important not only to the fans who enjoy their music, but to Brockhampton themselves. It has placed them above and beyond the level they reached with the Saturation era, it stands tall as an experimental masterpiece and something that should be placed on a pedestal as an advert for human emotion. Nobody is perfect, no matter how wealthy or poor, famous or unknown, we all feel low and wish things could be better. The important message Brockhampton send here, along with incredible songs, is that they’re a group with something to say; they want to positively impact the world and make people appreciate each other’s struggle. They speak for a generation that needs more than ever to talk about their problems and realise that nobody is alone, what Brockhampton say to me is that life isn’t about materialistic luxuries, it’s more about happiness and self-worth; togetherness and unity in the face of adversity, with iridescence becoming the soundtrack to these motives.