There are two facts that have become undeniable: First, post-punk is back and it’s here to say, and second, the Irish know how to write brilliant guitar music. From the return of My Bloody Valentine to streaming and the dominance of bands like The Murder Capital, Fontaines D.C., and Just Mustard it’s clear that the Isle is unrelenting in its output of groundbreaking artists. With the emergence of gothic quartet SCATTERED ASHES, it seems as though that output is not slowing down anytime soon.
With support from radio legend Steve Lamacq and help in the studio from Dan Doherty (former producer for Fontaines D.C)and Pete Maher (the man behind U2 and more), the Dublin-based band have made it clear that they have all it takes to match the recognition that many of their aforementioned contemporaries obtained. Listening to their debut single “Love Is Not An Option” it becomes easy to see why right from the first chord. Entering the sonic space with a yelping guitar chord that gives way to a playful yet dark bass line, the track makes its presence known. With a bed of light synths and graceful guitars supporting the verses of vocalist Rob Dalton, it’s not long before the cynical and poetic personality of the bands come into full effect.
While it’s hard to ignore the heavy influence of Joy Division, Bauhaus, and even Bloc Party at times on the sound, the track is much more than a retelling of post-punk and its countless revivals. Not limiting itself to the reserved performances of the 20th century but also creating an aura of claustrophobia that many bands on the airways fail to capture, SCATTERED ASHES can not be mistaken for anyone but themselves. From the ferocious drumming on the choruses to the triumphant cries and clamouring backing vocals there’s a palpable life to the 3 minutes and 45 seconds of music. Simultaneously, though, the restraint of the guitars and Dalton’s almost spoken voice keep the space tight and in contrast to the pummels of the drums.
The first track from the band and a prelude to an upcoming three track EP, “Love Is Not An Option” is emblematic of the staying power of all things goth. A powerful reminder to not take my ears away from Ireland, SCATTERED ASHES have made a convincing case on why you should keep tabs on them.
Their recent single is available on all good streaming platforms.
London’s up-and-coming alt-rock quartet, Legss, are Ned Green (Vocals), Max Oliver (Guitar), Jake Martin (Bass) and Louis Grace (Drums). The post-punk experimenters are two EP’s deep and are set to release accompanying visuals for the title track of their sophomore offering. Directed by the band and Luke Kulukundis and filmed by Rory Edmonds and Mollie Gallagher, the video is set to be an exciting accomplishment, adding to their resume of delightful musical creations.
Ambitious, ageless and authentic, ‘Doomswayers’ takes us on an alt-rock sonic journey through London, following a poignant protagonist with utter potency and incredibly ability. The lyrics and unwavering vocals exacerbate the dark side of post-punk with a certain edge that takes their music to a next level.
Speaking on the video, frontman Ned Green informs: “The video for Doomswayers is the concluding statement from our EP. A sprawling, epic, emotionally-charged, scatty, nauseating, vitriolic visual accompaniment, set in a 17th Century, modern, time-warped LondWinium-by-Sea, to a three-part throwaway Violin Concerto in D Major, found in a tip and then transcribed into the six-minute title-track EP-closer that you can all love, listen, and now watch today.”
‘Doomswayers’ is teeming with jagged riffs and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that tackle themes of modern-day urban life of crowded streets and intense volatility that come along with the 21st century. The opening monologue sets the scene for razor-sharped observations and critical orations that is present throughout. The track lends a unique view into the inner workings of a bustling city, dark undertones and volatility alike.
Legss have the mesmerising ability to produce off-kilter tracks which is blindingly brilliant, they’re poets that just happen to have a penchant for searing instrumentation.
Legss are set to support the eccentric Pom Poko on their upcoming tour: HOME | pom poko.
For any fans of Phoebe Green, Abbie Ozard and Lauren Hibberd, Solis is the star for you.
Irish hailing, Manchester based, stellar songwriter Solis has released her dazzling new single ‘Be Together’. Boasting expressive lyricism and enormous explorations into poignant feelings, Solis’ latest release offers a dreamy escapism. ‘Be Together’ acts as the second offering from her upcoming debut album which is set to be a sonic wonder.
Her ethereal aura expressed through the track has unsurprisingly caught the attention of multiple media outlets, such as BBC radio Manchester.
Talking on the track, Solis shares:
“”Be Together” tells the story of someone who longs to be in a relationship all the time. When someone finds it difficult to be on their own and becomes infatuated by another they wish to be with… The middle section with the cannon vocals is symbolic of the commotion, confusion and lust that has consumed the person’s thoughts. It’s not autobiographical, but there are elements of the unnamed narrator that I definitely relate to. Loneliness and missing human connection is something that we all can understand after the coronavirus pandemic.”
Her haunting vocals and psychedelic compositions beautifully melt together in a way that is fondly reminiscent of Lana Del Rey. Pouring with emotion and fruitful longing, this non-auto-biographical cut has received a glowing reception and sees her start to break out in the Manchester music scene.
Her honest and unvarnished approach to difficult topics and symbolic libretto gives a unique, sincere perspective on the all-consuming commotion and confusion that comes along with difficult situations. Related to current climates, her commentary on missing human connection offers and all-too relatable tale of the tribulations that have encroached on all our lives over the past year.
Keep your eyes peeled for more Solis creations, approaching imminently.
Solis’ new single is available here, and you can keep up with her on her social media here.
North-eastern rising indie-heads bigfatbig know how to make a charismatic, endearing track and never has it been more evident than on their latest single. While, truth be told, it has been a while since my jaded pretentious ears have taken to a youthful indie track, it was hard not to be swayed by the charm at display here. On Don’t Wanna Be Sad, the one word three-piece seem to have found all the ingredients necessary to cook up the summer sing-along anthem that even I can relate to: a heavy helping of fat instrumentals, a generous dash of self-assured vocals, and just the right amount of lyrics that hit close to home.
Undeniably, a large part of what makes the tune so iconic has to be the vulnerability at play. From the lyricism and songwriting to the band’s notable performances, you really get the sense that every moment on the track is written and performed to stay true to the band’s experiences. With the tune starting off with a snippet of what seems like a DIY demo, the band show they aren’t afraid to show their true selves, both at their most and least polished. Even once bursting in with the fully fledged track, they manage to retain that sense of confidence in their weaker moments as the lyrics relate the feelings of crushing depression. Forgoing the soft folk-laden voices one might expect for such subject matter, though, bigfatbig instead take the route of massive pop-punk vocals that makes sure every moment feels heavy with purpose. Think Hayley Williams covering a Beach Bunny track and you’ll have bigfatbig.
As the track recounts the struggles of maintaining relationships, the feeling of atrophy when regularly putting off self-care, and the inability to process thoughts when struck with depression, it would make sense that you would leave it feeling cathartic at best, downtrodden at worst . Life, though, is many things and sensible it is not. What Don’t Wanna Be Sad really leaves you feeling is energised, and comforted that you aren’t alone in living with those moments of depression. The warmth and density of the guitars, drums, and background vocals all add up too making it hard to feel anything but upbeat. It’s a strange but effective juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics and one that I wouldn’t trade away for anything. It also helps that there’s the occasional synth solo, and who doesn’t love a bit of synth.
If it isn’t clear by now I want you to listen to this track and I’m not sure how else to convince you because I feel like I’ve taken a lot of words to say what really only needed two sentences in the first place: bigfatbig rip and you should go check em out. Get that punchy catharsis and don’t look back!
bigfatbig’s music is available to stream everywhere you would expect. You can follow the band on Instagram here. The fourth single from bigfatbig, Don’t Wanna Be Sad, was released today, Thursday 25th March. Listen here.
Japanese post-rock is one of the sub-genres that can generate many feelings. From excitement to fear, intrigue to confusion, there is no doubt of its power to entice you once you’ve trudged through hours of searching on Spotify. The band, Imiss, are proof that this statement is true on their track ‘Make Your Call’.
The track opens up with a cinematic wall of sound underpinned by intense drums helping create a full-bodied effect. The drums’ synchronous pattern compliments the rather uplifting string section to evoke a large soundscape which is gripping and transient. The band’s utilising of the studio draws on their ability to compose music that draws on the dreamy effects of cinema in particular, the surroundings of their native Japan and its awe-inspiring landscape.
The awe-inspiring scoundscape demonstrated in the music is matched with the lyrics, which conjure the other side to Japanese life, the beautiful romanticism keeping Japan an enigma yet to unravel itself. This is expressed through the lyrics:
Every day, every night / We’ve been drawing / when the sky is filled with stars and rainy days/ Every day, every night/ We’ve been drawing/ ‘cuz we fell in love with our dreams...
These lyrics capture an authentic poetry that resonates with a spiritual quality and the added theme of dreams captures a tranquil state of being while you sink into the shimming soundscape.
This track fills a need for wonder and a lust for life that only atmospheric post-rock can provide. Lets hope Imiss can make post-rock not just big in Japan but around the world.
If someone were to approach me for advice on what the best setup for a band is, a lot of options would come to mind, most of which would probably be probably safe or easy to work with. Though, if I were to say something like a jazz trio, or a four-piece indie band I would undoubtedly feel disingenuous. That is because, and I can say this with a lot of certainty, the objectively best setup for a band is a two-piece noise-rock band. From Hella and Lighting Bolt to Belk and Modern Technology, there’s no lack of data that shows it’s a formula that not only works, but leaves so much room for individuality, experimentation, and attitude to shine through. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that when I encountered the music of Manchester noise-rock siblings SLAP RASH there was an immediate compulsion to engage with their music.
Almost as bold and present as their fully capitalised band-name, the duo’s latest single, “Cimmerian,” knows how to utilise atmosphere to its greatest extent. With its eerie synth-laden intro providing a backdrop for singer and drummer Amelia Lloyd’s authoritative vocals, an immediate sense of tension crawls through you that never fades through the tracks three and a half minute runtime. Even when bassist Huw Lloyd barrels through with his fuzzed-up, stabbing performance alongside the power of his sister’s confidence behind the drums, SLAP RASH keep up the atmosphere they built at the onset of the track.
Not letting ego get in the way of their songwriting though, the band are aware that an effective track needs restraint as much as it needs unleashed flurries of sound. As such, while heavy on those moments of raucous noise-rock, the duo wisely know when to stand back and let the sparseness do the talking, as passages of dynamic lows fill the space between furious choruses. The result is an engrossingly exciting addition to the expansive noise-rock canon.
I’m eager to see where the two-piece go from here. I hope like me you’ll be wanting to keep up with the band so you can find them here, here, and here, and listen to them here!
I love Nick Cave. No, I mean it. I love Nick Cave. That should be abundantly clear to anyone who knows me by now, the amount that I go on about the baritone beast of Bad Seeds fame. Some of his songs are the most special songs in the world to me. In my teenage years, I’d spend hours curled up on my box-room bed blasting The Boatman’s Call, lamenting with the Goth God that people just, truly, Ain’t No Good. I love his writing – see The Sickbag Song, in which his words weave webs of sheer narrative bliss. I love his ambitious collaborations, such as that of fellow Australian crooner Kyle Minogue Where The Wild Roses Grow, with its John Everett Millais music video aesthetic and strange synergy between the two most unique of talents. I think I love most of all his personality, or rather what I gather from it from his appearances in interviews and films like the 2007 epic western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and, of course, Oscar-robbed oligarch of animated excellence Shrek 2. Let’s excuse his recent comments in regards to a certain (rightly) shunned Smiths vocalist, and chalk it down to Cave’s age, just this once please. Because Cave oozes a distinct humility that is especially likeable due to the sheer amount of his creative successes. I have to admit, if that were me, I would be absolutely lauding my talent over everybody. No way I would be hiding my light under bushel. That light would be shining like a lighthouse, baby. So that’s why it is particularly disappointing for me to have to impart some honesty in regards to Mr Cave here, when I tell you that his recent February release, Carnage in collaboration with Warren Ellis, let me down somewhat. I did like it. But I didn’t love it, and I so wanted to. While I don’t deny the genius and usual comedic flair that Cave injects into all of his projects that this one is no exception to, I do question whether this is really just an album of Ghosteen rejects. Most of all, I question what direction is best next for Nick Cave.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I definitely still doted on this record. His mesmerising quality has not been totally lost, worry not. Some tracks did remind me of the theatrical twists and turns of 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, which I liked greatly. White Elephant for me was, definitely, the standout track from the record. Firstly, for it’s lyrics –“I am a Botticelli Venus with a penis riding an enormous scalloped fan” isn’t really the sort of lyric that you forget in any hurry. The threat of “shooting me in the f*ckin’ face if [I] come around here” is quite the deterrent from Cave and his Elephant-tear ammo-filled gun, let me tell you. Secondly, in terms of its technical composition, which is where Ellis’ collaboration choice truly shines – he’s a jack of all trades. He is a master of all instruments, and many wind instruments that I’m not actually sure of are at play in this record. It’s very typically Grinderman, which from Ellis, we can of course expect. But most strikingly his skills sparkle when you consider how many of the tracks sound akin to film scores, with the use of strings. Ellis is known for his scores to Mustang and War Machine. With softer songs like Lavender Fields and the achingly beautiful Albuquerque, which made me want to wail for all of the things that I haven’t yet shed tears over, the piano and strings truly evoke the tragic ending of a black-and-white film that I’ve just made up in my head during the 3:57 minutes I was lucky to be listening to it. Carnage is chaotic, but gorgeously so. It’s surreal. It’s senseless. It’s…like everything Cave does. Special, like I mentioned earlier. Cave feels like your closest friend in the world when you listen to him sing. Not many artists can do that, really. Not many artists are anywhere near in the same league as Nick Cave, really.
But this does not mean that it remains completely unscathed by criticism. Despite there only being eight tracks present on the EP, some certainly felt a bit…rushed. Hand of God, supposedly the lead from the record, is probably my least favourite of it. I found it a bit dreary, and in truth, almost as though Cave was parodying himself. It was far too familiar to so much of his previous back catalogue. It also lacked originality in some senses in that it all seemed very Eno-esque. I was reminded even of some of Eno’s ambient works as I listened to this record, the reflective tracks heavy in piano and less reliant on vocals driving the songs forward. It just didn’t really have that spark that Ghosteen certainly possessed.
I just worry really, that as the years go on, all Cave seems to offer us is content – and perhaps an oversaturation of it at that. Cave consistently churns out record after record. On the one hand, this is testament to his incredible creativity that he seemingly struggles to rein in at times. It seems to burst from the very seams of his brains and shoot right out of every one of his senses. On the other hand, the argument of quality over content could certainly be applied here, as a few of his records I have listened to have felt like excuses to ram records out rather than to actually carefully craft meaningful music. Across his work with The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party, his solo stuff and his soundtracks, Cave has released 30+ records. More than half, particularly in more recent years, have been a bit ‘meh’. It pains me to say it, as I idolise the man, but I can’t help but wish that he would perhaps go in a different direction with his next work. It’s all well and good collaborating for a fresh sound, but that can’t be achieved when it’s being done with somebody you have worked with for literal years – a former bandmate like Ellis. I want Cave to flex his creative prowess and think a bit more out of the box. He is the best when he is at his most random. If you hear of a collaboration or project that Cave is planning and think, hmm, that’ll be a bit weird, won’t it? then you can guarantee that that will be his next magnum opus.
So. In short? The record was chaotic. It meant a lot, while all at once not really meaning anything. It was a mish-mash of ideas and genres, some of which paid off, whilst others needed a bit more close careful attention and preening to. Here’s hoping that Cave’s next album gives us something a little bit different. Maybe a musical makeover is required for our favourite Aussie. Regardless, Cave still remains one of my favourite humans, and the undeniable King of Black Suit Jackets. I just wish he’d do another Kylie collab. Can’t Get Red Right Hand Out Of My Head, anyone?
Listen to Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ new album, Carnage, below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Stockport’s self-proclaimed resident rockstar (or rather, Stockstar…no? I thought that was quite good) is back with a bang! Make You Mine has been on the airwaves for quite some time now – if you don’t know it, get to know it. This seasoned and slightly overloaded reviewer may or may not have had this on the ‘to review’ pile for a while (I sincerely hope Rory doesn’t mind about this gross negligence of mine), but it’s hopefully worth the wait. Why? Well, there isn’t much more for me to say in regards to this record other than positive poring over it – it’s a seductive, synthy sizzler of a single that dreamily oozes from one catchy hook to another. I caught myself humming the chorus as I typed out this review; while I’m sure it’s not a comparison he’s never had before, this indie-pop enigma of a single echoes the likes of Blossoms, which by many a Mancunian’s standards is quite the fabulous feat.
The blanket of lockdown bleakness has been perfectly punctured through with Make You Mine, an irresistible song that tugs at the sides of your mouth until you’re doing one of those things – what do you call them? Oh yes, smiles. Most of us have been strangers to this seldom-experienced sensation for some time given the gloom of recent months. And yet Rory raises spirits effortlessly in just over three minutes. It’s a real talent to have, that, to transform the whole fabric of one’s mornings. That’s just what this song did for me when I played it for the first time. Having been moodily cocooned in duvet domains for a large part of my morning, a decided lazy day, a quick blast of Wynne’s new winner of a track had me up, showered and ready for the day. It seems that Wynne has truly achieved his goal with the song – “The perfect tune to mark a new chapter.” It inspires a real sense of new beginnings. In a year (hopefully) not totally fraught with captivity and miserable masses. But rather, a celebration of Spring, an advent for adventures to come. The track is pure joy, plain and simple.
Is it a love song? Is it a lust song? A mixture of both, I feel. Wynne himself describes it as a “coming-of-age movie lyrically”, and indeed, this would seem an accurate assertion. It’s a bonafide Bildungsroman (look it up, it’s a mint word), a narrative journey of sorts, and I found myself feeling strangely connected to the subject matter despite having little knowledge on the trials and tribulations of love myself. Considering indie lyrics can, sometimes, fall foul to cop-out-cliches and fairly paint-by-numbers production, to have such an intriguing tale behind the words really does amplify its specialness as a track. It’s unique to many records I’ve heard of its genre – and in fairness, I think by now living in South Manchester for the past few years, I’ve heard a lot.
I think what struck me most when listening to it, was how much I longed for live gigs again. I’ve stated this on previous reviews, I’m sure, and I’m equally sure that you are bored of reading this sentiment of mine – but when one hears a song like this, the thought of being crammed in a sweaty swarm of strangers bouncing to the beat is a thought most tempting. Wynne has wowed before with his live performances on his own tour, a triumphant headline show at Liverpool’s brand new Jimmy’s, and a rowdy successful residency of heralded headline shows here in Manchester. The thought of hearing his chocolately, smooth vocals slipping their way into a crowd makes me absolutely itching to return to normality and gigs in the greatest city in the world (no bias, honest..)
I’m hoping, in excuse for my inexcusable tardiness with said review, that this will re-remind people of what a talent Rory truly is. Wynne is one to watch, there’s no doubt about that, and he only grows bigger and bigger in his creative exploits as he experiments with different instruments, genres and vocal styles. I expect furthermore releases in this enjoyable vein – I particularly enjoyed his previous single, Roses (slightly different to the Outkast one, but still properly good, promise). I can’t help but feel Tom Ogden and the gang should probably watch out. Stockport’s new indie titan looks well on his way to rethroning them as Stocky’s finest export…
‘Make You Mine’ is available on all good streaming sites. You can follow Rory on Instagram here, and Twitter here. Listen to this new single below:
Imagine The Libertines (circa their shining self-titled era) – no, wait. Babyshambles, yeah. And imagine Cabbage (circa, well, now really). Picture this. They’ve procreated and had a beautiful albeit unruly Salfordian sonic child that just kicks off all the time. Unrelenting. A bit loud. But nonetheless, bloody irresistible. Oh yeah, and it’s wearing a pig mask. Well, that’s probably the most accurate description that I can offer for the raucous Swinton band SWINE’s recent single ‘No Fightin’ – a Valentine’s Day release that’ll certainly have you falling in love with the band brilliantly baptized with a boar’s moniker.
Clocking in at a mere 2:44 minute runtime, the record is perfectly engineered to be as replayable and catchy as possible, much like the punk songs of the seventies they draw their heaviest inspirations from. In their own words, ‘No Fightin’ is an ode to the most perfect imperfection – that of ourselves, and in our relationships with others. “We, or those who we love, or anyone, are not perfect. It’s self reflection to some extent, as some of the lines in the song are things that have been said to me.” So says Michael Blakemore, frontman of the band. The lyrics portray “an unhealthy relationship for both people involved, and a plead for peace.” It begs the question: in life, is there ever truly ‘NO fightin’? Is there any need for said ‘fightin’ (I’m enjoying not using a g on the end of the word, by the way, it feels very rock ‘n’roll of me.) Well, boxers and pro-military American conservatives would beg to differ, but that’s by the by.
SWINE have softened their sound somewhat from their earlier releases with this number. They are a band that are undoubtedly constantly evolving. This single is sort of like pushing our boundaries a bit. “We’ve got a stigma of being wild and chaotic,” says Michael, the vocalist, “but this tune really shows how we can mix it up and incorporate bits of different genres in to our personal sound.” And truly, they have dabbled in quite the myriad of genres here. SWINE’s debut EP ‘Fools Britannia’ is pure punk paradise start to finish, with ‘Pablo Picasso’ a real standout from the record echoing the likes of The Stranglers. Then followed 2019’s ‘They Hate Us’ accompanied by B-side ‘Diluted’ – both tracks building on their new-wave foundation and treading into ska territory. The songs on this record in particular are topical, they’re fresh. They touch on issues of classism, fascism and sexism that work seamlessly with the ska influences interspersed throughout the verses. Later on in the year, ‘Gazza B‘ was released, a song open to interpretation (before listening, I had presumed this was a post-punk ode to Mr Take That himself. I’m still unconvinced I’m totallywrong.) This record is even more different than the last, with more of a sound of the Fall as it is rich with that same strain of fuzzy feedback ferociousness Mark E. Smith possessed. While the band definitely aim for a everpresent undertone of punk rock noise throughout every song they perform, they make effort to mix and merge into a mesh of different genres. I think that’s what makes them so refreshing and intriguing as an upcoming band, this constant exploration and metamorphosis of styles and substance. They refuse to settle on one constant, and to me this is a clear as can be sign of a true crew of creatives.
So. I’ve got a bit of a quibble with this tune, personally, and I’m going to have to state my case for…well, a fight. My only criticism is that this was released during lockdown. Why, SWINE, why? For you have robbed us of a live reveal! How I would love to experience this for the first time live. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve really listened to a lockdown release and truly hungered for a great gig. And by God, can SWINE put on a great gig. They have somewhat of a legendary stage presence in many Manchester music circles, supporting the likes of Strange Bones in their live outings. I’m yet to experience them for myself, sadly, but I’ve seen videos, and have heard tales from peers of chaotic Lux Interior-level performances. I’d be especially intrigued to see how they would handle this track. It wouldn’t be a typical punk performance, and for frontman who spits spectacularly into a swarm of sweaty sh*tfaced fans behind the mask of a hog, I’d be curious to see how they’d handle a gentler number life. It’s an indie-rock triumph, and while I personally prefer their punky roots, their first foray into indie-rock territory has paid off enormously. Kudos to SWINE, and save me a ticket when things finally recommence so that I can be present to a riot incited by you Swindon lads. Oh to be sweating in a crowd at The Bread Shed, privy to the first live smashing out of ‘No Fightin’. I’ll be fighting to get to the front.
‘No Fightin’ is available on all semi-decent streaming platforms, and the band’s socials are here. Listen to it below:
I realise that it’s largely considered wanker-ish behaviour to quote yourself, but allow it for just this once. After seeing Black Country, New Road live at the start of last year, one of the last gigs I went to before The Event, I had this to say as part of a long, rambling and unpublished mini-essay I wrote recounting the experience.
“One of the forerunners in the current wave of experimental rock bubbling up from the south, Black Country, New Road seem to have struck gold with a sound that has left every member of the “you probably won’t know them” Northern Quarter vibe police painfully erect with no more than a pair of singles and an ever-escalating run of mythical live shows where “you just HAD to be there”. Improv and originality is the name of the game, with the set made up of about 4 or 5 discernible songs weaved together by extended sections of carefully curated chaos.”
A lot has happened since then (and not just the attempted coining of the fantastic term speedywunder-core to describe some of these bizarre young bands harking from the eponymous label and Brixton’s legendary Windmill). With their debut album finally out, it’s difficult to decide whether BC,NR have captured that same sense of electric and eclectic excitement in the studio, and really how much that matters.
Going into For the First Time there already seemed to be potential cause for concerns about “freshness”, with 4 of the 6 tracks already having been released in one form or another as singles. However with a band who’s discography is so extensively catalogued through live bootlegs, there’s little they can really do to avoid this. Bookending the album are the only previously unreleased tracks Instrumental and Opus, the first living up to its name with a lyric-less slow build-up to a marching avalanche of klezmer rhythm and melody that explodes into screaming, James Chance-esque saxophone, clearing the way and setting the tone for what is to come. Arriving 27 minutes later, Opus has been a staple of their live shows for some time, with it’s furious, howling, and once again klezmer-influenced riff coming full circle to the album opener and inspiring similar feelings of panic as a fire alarm at 4am. Also = who knew every self-appointed indie tastemaker was such an expert in obscure Hebrew folk music? I can’t say I really knew anything about klezmer a few days ago, but thank god we’re surrounded by such authorities on the subject.
But then with a track as synonymous to BC,NR as Sunglasses, any changes to the single that’s been so championed for the last two years was bound to ruffle feathers. Some changes are objectively for the better, the slow, sludgy intro of their live performances has crept into the album version and announces the arrival of the song proudly and defiantly. Some changes however have taken some time to grow on me, most notably the changes to Isaac’s lyrics. Gone is the iconic line “and f*ck me like you mean it this time“, along with most of the other highly quotable but thickly angst laden turns of phrase. And given time and reflection I can see why; it would be silly to not expect his writing and the deeply personal statements within to not have evolved and matured over the last 2 years- it’s not better or worse, it’s just different.
The same is true for the new take on Athens, France, the new subdued mix and lyrical stylings suggest a maturity that could be taken ever so slightly personally by anyone favouring the previous, more angst heavy cut. Still present though is the Slint infused, threatening melancholia simmering beneath the surface, and while the wonderful imagery of “sourdough daily bread” is gone, the addition of “I am very young and working on the glow up” more than makes up for it.
Is it worth the wait? Definitely. Did it live up to expectations? Well, it’s disappointed and thrilled in equal measure amongst those who have been waiting for this since 2019. God bless those who discovered them on release, sans hype and full of wonder. But really, something like For the First Time was always unlikely to reach the levels of originality and unpredictability of what BC,NR have excelled at so far in their live assaults.
And that’s okay. This is their first album, delayed and disrupted by Covid-19 on top of all of the teething troubles of a band embarking on their first major project. The more time that I’ve spent with it, the more I’ve overcome my uncertainty and found myself really enjoying it. The production on all tracks is stellar, and if you’re unhappy with changes in the lyrics then guess what? The old songs still exist!My lasting impression of it can only really be that if this is Black Country, New Road at their first steps, God help anyone still in the race when they learn to run.