Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
Emerging from the burgeoning Brixton, Windmill scene based in the U.K., Black Country, New Road transcends beyond simple classification and delivers something truly astonishing with their debut album “For the first time.” Although developing among the post-punk revivalist scene, which has recently yielded impressive releases such as Shame’s “Drunk Tank Pink” and Squid’s “Narrator,” with “For the first time,” Black Country, New Road outgrows the post-punk conventions of their peers to create something truly unique, and thus raises the bar for their contemporaries.
With this release, the band stitches together countless influences and genres (such as but not limited to post-punk, jazz and post-rock) to formulate something that successfully returns a cohesive, holistic project that revels in its jagged and subversive construction.
Part of what makes this project so engaging is the band’s unabashedness regarding their Frankenstein of musical stylings, as they actively divulge and incorporate the album’s seams rather than attempting to hide them. In many cases, this manifests as stark momentum and genre switches that experiment with anticipation and shatter any semblance of predictability. Although this is a common (yet not overplayed) occurrence throughout the album, nowhere is this more prevalent than on the track “Athens, France,” which is as entrancing as it is jarring due to its constant subversions.
Out of the gate, “Athens, France” establishes an air of post-punk intensity fit with a driving baseline, angular guitars and impassioned vocals, which eventually leads to a crescendo that suggests an explosive release. This expectation is undercut, though, when instead of a raging assault of guitars and drums, the song replaces the energetic post-punk style with the weightless horns and sparse guitar work of a more post-rock leaning, leaving heads cocked for banging dangling in an astonished trance.
Along with shattering expectations, “For the first time”’s heterogeneous mixture of genres creates sharp contrasts that result in powerful, evocative moments. This is mostly achieved through contrasts in energy such as in “Athens, France,” but also in contrasts of style and convention, which is most apparent on the aptly named, glitchy experiment, “Science Fair.”
This track embodies the calculated chaos of the album as conventions from countless genres collide into one song that nearly attacks listeners with its stylistic diversity. The song constantly switches between elements of harsh noise, post-rock, post-punk and electronica which creates an almost fever-dream feel that is either barraging the ears with noise or lulling them into a wavering, false security with wonky horns and strings. This culminates in the song’s outro which condenses the elements into an anarchic tornado of sound fit with a foundation of distorted noise, squealing trumpet and crashing symbols which sound as if the instrumental itself is in pain.
All of the album’s strengths coalesce in the almost 10 minute long epic “Sunglasses,” which showcases the extent of the band’s range. The song opens with over a minute of droning distortion that sets the stage for a tranquil, meditative post-punk/post-rock section with a gentle guitar and bass line cycled over a pleasant, understated drone.
Atop this, Isaac Wood’s voice is at its most fragile, aided by savory horns in the song’s climax as he repeats, voice wavering, “I’m so ignorant now,” which makes for an incredibly emotional moment.
Following this, the track transitions into a breakneck, furious post-punk section that juxtaposes the previous half of the song. The guitars become aggressive, the drumming accelerates and the horns become demented and sharp. The vocals elevate from fragility to rage as Wood begins to scream the lyrics, which is highlighted when he reuses the line “I’m so ignorant now,” but instead of evoking sorrow and despondency, it evokes anger and revolt.
With “For the first time,” Black Country, New Road both officially enters the post-punk scene and reinvents it with their endlessly creative and innovative blend of genres. With this release, the band creates something that will be difficult to follow, both regarding their contemporaries and themselves.
Contact contributor Zac Zibaitis at email@example.com.
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