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Brockhampton - Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine (Album Review)

Monday, 12 April 2021 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Conor Cunningham

Texan hip hop boy band-collective Brockhampton are (apparently) calling it a day. After 10 years and several personnel changes the 13(ish)-strong outfit are releasing two final albums and then going in their separate directions. ‘Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine’ is the first of this closing diptych, and suggests that the creative force of a group that met via online forums may have waned.

One reason is that the disparate elements that made Brockhampton so versatile are pulling apart. On their fantastic ‘Saturation’ trilogy, the group managed to combine worldviews, sexualities and lyrical styles with verve and gusto, creating a rich, highly literate rap sound that was as distinctive as it was politically appealing.

Now, old school cuts like Windows (feat. SoGone SoFlexy) bump unevenly against R&B-new jack swing hybrids like I’ll Take You On (feat. Charlie Wilson). Where helicopter collaborators previously elevated songs, now the result is a slightly ropey mishmash. This is more like a compilation album or mixtape than a cogent work.

That said, there are some excellent turns. The peerless Danny Brown shows up on Buzzcut with pleasing results. He’s developing into a kind of Snoop Dogg without the vulgarity—dropping in to deliver immediate comic relief on tracks that lack a bit of personality. There is also the pleasant, easy-on-the ear Dear Lord, a mostly a cappella spiritual that recalls Boyz 2 Men.

Ten years is a good innings for a boy band, so good on ‘em, but ‘Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine’ is not as good as it should be, and might even suggest the limitations of running a musical troupe this way. It will be intriguing to see what the final Brockhampton album delivers. Hopefully it’s a banger.

Brockhampton Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu January 27 2022 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Fri January 28 2022 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Sun January 30 2022 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Tue February 01 2022 - BELFAST Ulster Hall
Thu February 03 2022 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Fri February 04 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Sat February 05 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Mon February 07 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Tue February 08 2022 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton

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