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A Magazine for Sheffield

Black Country, New Road For the first time

Hailed by many as the second coming of Slint, Black Country, New Road are purpose-built to debunk the jaded music fan who thinks all modern music is predictable toss.

Released: 5 February 2021
For the first time

Those claiming that this young seven-piece are aping the seminal band behind Spiderland grasp key elements of BC, NR’s sound, including their unfettered use of the full dynamic spectrum and rambling spoken vocals. But they fail to acknowledge the influence of free jazz and klezmer, the employment of a saxophone and strings, and the youthful vigour with which this post-everything band string together myriad ideas.

For the first time will not be for everyone. Isaac Wood’s quirky poetry mashes pop culture and millennial idioms into cryptic half-stories with astonishing, abstract flair. But his near improvisational delivery – sometimes climaxing with unhinged yells, other times wobbling with a strangely overactive vibrato for what is often spoken word – will undoubtedly be too much to stomach for some. There are parallels with Oxbow in the band’s frenetic, angular energy, but also in that both have singularly unique frontmen who are unafraid to risk the label of ‘pretentious’ by messing with expectations.

BC, NR are a post-rock band in the purest sense, taking rock instruments to territories well beyond their norms. The klezmer influence is most clear on ‘Instrumental’ and ‘Opus’, but it’s also weaved into the adventurous post-punk stylings throughout the album. For the first time is at once avant-garde and accessible, rife with lush melody (see ‘Track X’) and unsettling discord (the noisy payoffs on ‘Science Fair’ are quite something).

The choice to re-record existing singles largely makes for a cohesive album experience, though the discordant mid-song breakdown on the stellar ‘Sunglasses’ loses some of its original deranged gusto, feeling more like lethargic euthanasia.

Such an eclectic sound makes name-checking hard to avoid, with the frayed energy of peers Black Midi often called to mind, as well as shades of Swans’ repetitive grooves on ‘Science Fair’ and ‘Opus’. This is a band looking backwards and forwards at once, in what ultimately amounts to an unbelievably exciting and fresh sound for British rock.