After two years of mounting hype, British septet Black Country, New Road have released their debut LP – a work of remarkable scope and bristling creativity. The group crafts a diverse suite of experimental post-rock over six tracks and 40 minutes that draws reference from traditional Klezmer music, Kanye West and everything in between. Having risen from the ashes of the short lived Nervous Conditions, BCNR quickly reformed around guitarist Isaac Wood who would step into lyrical and vocal duties with his haunted sprechgesang (spoken singing) delivery quickly gaining attention alongside the band’s jagged rhythms and sinuous phrasing. This is one for lovers of The Fall, Scott Walker, Joy Division or the thrill of something unexpected.
Beginning with a frantic instrumental opener, appropriately titled ‘Instrumental’, the band dives headfirst into a world music straddling brand of rock that fuses free jazz saxophone and folk strings with winding synths and post-punk guitars. A rework of debut single ‘Athens, France’ appears next. The lyrical style oozing observational witticisms that collide with violent beauty against scathing examinations of both our inner and outer worlds. ‘Science Fair’ finds climax in a monstrous and delicate exchange at the Cirque Du Soleil that has to be heard to be believed. What follows is a nearly ten minute centrepiece titled ‘Sunglasses’ during which Wood’s narrator laments the ordinariness of the life into which he is falling. Blaming “mediocre theatre in the daytime, ice in single malt whiskey at night, rising skirt hems” and the decline of communal intelligence, finally lamenting that “things just aren’t built like they used to be” before rallying under his favourite pair of shades, comforted in knowing that hidden eyes betray no weakness. The group then slows down to a simmer on atmospheric ballad ‘Track X’ so the tenderly romantic, lustful remembrances can bubble to the surface unobstructed and the record’s final thrilling act can take over with ‘Opus’.
An early contender for album of the year and surely a high water mark for the upcoming decade. The band deftly bottles middle class malaise with electrifying results, ensuring that For The First Time will certainly stay with you if you take the plunge. The void is staring back and it’s black country out there.