BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD
For The First Time
(2021 - Ninja Tune - UK)
In early February of 2021, the debut release of London based Black Country, New Road took the music world for a surprise with it's fresh slant on an odd combination of Tindersticks, The Cure (era 'Seventeen Seconds; & 'Faith') , and Wire, adding playful electronics, distorted lead guitar entries, both melodic and/or avant-garde sax lines, odd strings, and intimate off-kilter lyrics delivered by equally eccentric vocals. Throw in a carnival style horn moment, and you have only a fraction of the often dramatic and unbridled music from this peculiar group. A nice balance of compositions that flirt with being fragile one moment and pronounced the next, soaks the listener with an attention getting performance. They released 2 singles back in 2020, one not available on the long player called 'Manchester xx/xx/20'. It is an all instrumental that shows the band in a out-there frame of mind.
Smart use of dynamics kick the listener in the seat just as they are relaxed in the narcotic narrative style story telling vocals by Isaac Wood. The word is that they wanted to have the music and lyrics based on experiences living in a small American town, even though the band members are from the UK. The collage of songs are way short for a full length, with only 6 cuts, however there is a lot of material to enjoy and multiple listens are easy. The album starts off with a fast paced curious instrumental that has a Latin rhythm and in the 1980's cold wave nod, adding Casio-like keyboards(possibly the upper notes on an organ or organ sample), and The Cure induced guitar work. Bands like Flue (Holland) were also making music similar to this particular track from that time period The following 5 tracks captivate you with a partially surrealistic stance on the wording, and mostly quietly laid vocals. But the formula is finalized with those sudden explosive parts, there to create the robust verses the somber modes and moods. This post-punk, art rock, hybrid of narcotic and hullabaloo, mixed with anything goes, is not only entertaining but totally lovable and intoxicating. It feels new and is a smart patchwork of styles to the giddy legion of fans they have gathered already.
The outfit consists of Lewis Evans (saxophonist), May Kershaw (keys), Charlie Wayne (drums), Luke Mark (guitar), Isaac Wood (vocals/guitar), Tyler Hyde (bass) and Georgia Ellery (violin). I see much larger things to come from these musicians, as long as they stay together and pursue their intended honesty of their art. They do indeed state this is important to them. The affair began before the lockdown with Andy Savours (who has been involved with Goldfrapp, Newmoon, My Bloody Valentine, & The Killers to name a few) doing the mixing, engineering, and excellent production. At the end of the album the lockdown had taken place. Perhaps the swaying mind-set and expeditious spirit rattling is a clear result from the emotions of the normal world verses the pandemic abyss. Whatever the inspiration, wherever it came from, however they pulled it in, it is righteous and absolutely a fantastic beginning of the 2021 music year. TOTALLY RECOMMENDED!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 2 - 27 - 2021