Oliver Burton
Oliver Burton

Purveyor of good music.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Label: Ninja Tune

Black Country, New Road are a band from South London, that of which remains the only unremarkable thing about them. For two years they’ve been on the tip of every hip young person’s tongue, and the latest band that everyone seems to have heard first. You’d struggle to find yourself within the dimly lit four walls of a Peckham house party and not be confronted with either of their early singles ‘Athens, France or ‘Sunglasses’.

With debut album ‘For the First Time’Black Country New Road are no longer just your favourite band’s favourite band – nor do they remain an entrenched product of the Brixton Windmill’s long coat mafia. This album is intelligent, yet accessible. It is a beautiful, violent portrait of an individual unfitting of the mould that society offers. Against a brutally cacophonous wall of sound, the lyrics of singer Isaac Wood shepherd us through fields of anxiety, fear and pain.

The chemistry between the complex, intricate instrumentation and Wood’s poetic wails and harrowing moans give the band a sound of absolute distinction. The six songs on show aren’t so much the entire catalogue of the band’s work, but rather a carefully chosen carousel of noise, running like a well-oiled machine. The album’s cinematic opener ‘Instrumental’, certainly reflects this – punching the album open with pulsating march of hypnotic rhythms. This, as well as the album closer ‘Opus’, constructs a platform for the more lyrically-focused songs in the album to thrive, conditioning the listener to the depth of sound that this LP contains. The follow up track is a revised edition of debut single ‘Athens, France’. Slight changes to lyrics render this 9 oz rump a little low-fat, but musically it’s a much more ear-friendly rendition of the cult song, with producer Andy Savours retaining much of the band’s raw and instinctive live sound. The angular guitars and broken up drums pirouette around what is our first taste of singer Wood’s biting prose.

Throughout the album, the lyrics present a grim, yet sincere account of metropolitan living. They delve between scathing portrayals of post-modernity and sarcastic assurances of self-pity. They are raw yet delicate, and dig at the anachronisms of conformity. Whether it be the situational drama of ‘Science Fair’…“still living with my mother, as i move from one micro-influencer to another”… or the sardonically self-aware ‘Sunglasses’ “Mother is juicing watermelons on the Breakfast island, and with frail hands she grips the NutriBullet”. The latter of which denounces many young rich Londoners whom have been accused of seeking an Instagram-friendly working-class experience, whilst still favouring generous breaks away, funded by Daddy’s Job (leave it out of this). Though clearly estranged from many of their young artful peers, it’s fair to say that the classically trained South Londoners are not of the POV of the voyeur, nor are they themselves exempt from criticism. These lyrics are critical yes, but they also possess the self-deprecating and crude honesty of a beatnik drunk, angry at the world that they themselves are so integral to.

The fourth wall meta-humour continues once more in ‘Track X’, which struts along with a devilish awareness of the band’s artistic surroundings, and the cliques of fans of the more esoteric London artists who many brand as overtly hipster and pretentious. With lyrics such as “I told you I loved you, in front of Black Midi”, are the band now coming to terms with this affiliation?

Nevertheless, it’ll surely not be long before the band can outgrow the confines of their roots. A quick google search will unveil a myriad of performances littered with tracks that are soon to have their day in the public domain. Until then, this will just have to do.

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