For The First Time – Black Country, New Road – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Seven-piece band Black Country, New Road have been gaining attention of late with lots of positive noise, of the written variety. There are many reviews proclaiming this as the first great album of 2021. This is not one of those reviews. Although the band are English, every note on the album sounds like an American band, from the knotty, post-rock guitars to Isaac Wood’s quirky vocals.
All the above aside, there is lots to get your aural teeth into here. Though there are only six tracks, two of them extend beyond eight minutes, and all are packed full of twists and turns. The opener, entitled Instrumental throws the kitchen sink at it from the word ‘go’, with rattling drums, ringing guitar and insistent keyboards, joined by saxophone and violin. If that sounds a little much, perhaps it *is*…. Athens, France is propulsive post-rock with Isaac Wood’s shaky drawled vocals, singing “why don’t you sing with an English accent… well I guess it’s too late to change it now”. The track itself swings between introspection and more rocky moments.
Science Fair is grittier, opening with blasts of feedback and Wood’s almost strangulated vocals “I know where I’m going, it’s black country out there” over atonal guitars as tension gradually builds, with cinematic strings join the mix. Sunglasses is the longest track at nearly ten minutes and contains some of the most melodic music on the album, even when the sax comes in. Vocally it’s reminiscent of Slint, or even Eels. Weirdly, though it’s the longest track it’s probably the best entry point for this band.
Track X is almost like an extension of the previous track with added female backing vocals, while Opus feels like the band completely letting loose. It’s like something of a drunken jig!
With a lot of these lengthy pieces you’ll hear something different time. Self-indulgent? Absolutely. Boring? Certainly not. Critics will love this. How will this album last? Only time will tell.
2. Athens, France
3. Science Fair
5. Track X