BLACK COUNTRY NEW ROAD – ” Athens France “

Posted: April 25, 2022 in MUSIC
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For more than a year now, London’s Black Country, New Road has patiently teetered on the cusp of success. The seven-piece experimental rock outfit emerged from relative anonymity in 2019 with just two songs, and publications from the New York Times to the Guardian quickly embraced them. The Quietus even declared the group “the best band in the world.” 

With a visceral sound that melds post-rock, jazz, post-punk, and even klezmer into dynamic compositions, the band would soon sell out shows across the country, book international festivals, and land a record deal with independent stalwart Ninja Tune. Then the pandemic hit, delaying the release of their debut album “For the First Time” for a year. 

Despite a refreshingly opaque social media presence (the band only posts stock photos), the disruption hasn’t detracted from the hype — and might have even been a blessing in disguise. “For the First Time” arrived at the top of 2021 as a thrilling palate cleanser from the nostalgia and inertia that characterized much of the pandemic music experience. The record feels urgent and wild, a document of raw youth, generational disillusionment, and the hollow excesses of late capitalism that bristles with tension, intelligence, and a smirk.  

It’s also a fine middle finger to today’s short attention spans, with long tracks that grip you till the end. The nearly nine-minute “Sunglasses,” for example, shape-shifts from ruminative post-punk into an orchestral ballad before collapsing into cacophony and reassembling as a dance-punk invective. 

“I am so ignorant now, with all that I have learnt,” singer-guitarist Isaac Wood howls and pants into the bridge. “I’m more than adequate / Leave Kanye out of this / Leave your Sertraline in the cabinet / And burn what’s left of all the cards you kept.” We’ll bring the matches. 

Cerebral song writing and sheer catharsis both come naturally to South London seven-piece Black Country, New Road. Ever referential, lead singer Isaac Wood namechecks scene mates black midi on “Track X” and quotes Phoebe Bridgers’ “Motion Sickness” on their standout single “Athens, France” with trademark tremor in his voice as he intones, “Why don’t you sing with an english accent? Well, I guess it’s too late to change it now.” At the same time, songs like “Opus” jangle the nerves with ebbs and flows of energy that refuse to let up. Their aptly titled debut For the first time, with fewer tracks than band members, proves a rollercoaster of noise-rock and jazz. This powerhouse needs to be seen live to be believed.

The skyrocketing septet Black Country, New Road found their band name using a random Wikipedia page generator. With singles like 2019’s “Athens, France” and “Sunglasses,” and last year’s “Science Fair,” the U.K. up-and-comers are growing and changing before our eyes. On their debut album “For the first Time”, frontman Isaac Wood’s hypnotic speak-singing shifts subtly away from “speak” and towards “sing” so as to more effectively meld with the band’s mercurial instrumental outbursts. Their thunderous post-punk, spiked with discordant jazz and bookended by klezmer squalls, feels both explosively raw and carefully, ingeniously crafted. 

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