Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

On The Family, BROCKHAMPTON take a victory lap at their slick, self-referential best

"The Family"

Release date: 17 November 2022
8/10
Brockhampton The Family Album Artwork
17 November 2022, 13:00 Written by Ims Taylor
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After what felt like a high point at their Coachella set, BROCKHAMPTON said goodbye - two more shows, one more album, then an indefinite hiatus.

The collective went out on the highest of highs, emotional and musical, with a back catalogue of non-stop heat and a fanbase that matched the band in energy consistently – no mean feat, as BROCKHAMPTON’s stage presence is something akin to electrified ping-pong balls on a trampoline. Across their releases, they’ve never faltered or slowed down, so perhaps it’s not surprising that much of The Family is a pretty unfavourable treatise on fame and the challenges that being BROCKHAMPTON has presented the group with.

“You can’t become unfamous, you’ll probably just start fading” goes “Gold Teeth,” the first of many biting lyrical moments that lean strong into the bitter. The Family is uncomfortably, painfully honest about the tensions that ran between BROCKHAMPTON’s members, but consistently blames the pressures of the industry in a boldly critical way: playlisting and pandering to the industry; falling into toxic situations in the name of the band; and putting the art before themselves at personal cost. Ironically, there are elements of that in the candour that runs through The Family. The end of “Good Times” is one of many raw audio moments, this one reflecting on ‘keeping the cameras rolling’ to capture the most personal, painful moments to the benefit of the BROCKHAMPTON narrative. But throughout this album, the group are owning their story for one last time.

It sounds like The Family was BROCKHAMPTON’s most overtly challenging album to make, saturated with honesty even when it’s difficult. But there’s a sense that going out with intention freed them up creatively like never before. Opener “Take It Back” is a quintessential BROCKHAMPTON cacophony of samples and melody layers; “Big Pussy” boasts an exhilarating, wild jazz sample; their trademark punctuating beats and familiar magnetic flow still plays across the whole record. But in keeping with the themes on the record, BROCKHAMPTON use some of their trademark sonics to more intense ends. “Gold Teeth,” for example, borrows a “BOOGIE”-esque tempo and wooping sample, but sounds far more ominous than its party tune predecessor – BROCKHAMPTON are paying homage to their whole career but bringing it in line with the new emotional narrative.

BROCKHAMPTON, as well as the frantic, surreal stylings of their louder cuts, have always had a knack for nailing their more mellow moments too, and The Family has plenty of these. Reflective, focussed, evocative – and acknowledging where they’ve done this before and pushed it onwards. “SAN MARCOS was soft” on iridescence, but on The Family, tracks don’t fall into ‘soft ones’ and ‘heavy ones’; everything sits in an emotionally nuanced middle ground. Crooner “Any Way You Want Me” sounds positively easy-listening and sweet, but playfully devolves into a self-aware tirade against toxic love-song idealism; “37th” is sonically relaxed, even dreamy, but the overtones are frustrated and angst-laden.

For all its ups and downs, though, The Family isn’t just a true story, it’s a true celebration. All the arguments and fights the band own up to are overshadowed by the love and pride they have in what they’ve done – opener “Take It Back” is a bop, but it’s a tearjerker in context, with lines like “then we went number one like magic” next to “man, I wish we got to play The Forum. / But next time, in another life…”. BROCKHAMPTON have peppered the record with swan songs – “Take It Back,” “Boyband,” the eponymous “BROCKHAMPTON,” and so many more. But the most devastating, poignant factor, above all, is how obvious it is that BROCKHAMPTON know they’re signing off on something incredibly special – at least for now.

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