Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Model Army : "Between Wine and Blood"

I have always has a funny relationship with punk rock aside from maybe six or seven bands, the majority of the punk I listen to is from bands like TSOL, the Damned, or New Model Army that learned to play their instruments and became "goth" or "Death-rock". The label post-punk gets tossed around these days like the morning paper, but in most cases this means, influenced by Joy Division,where and no offense Warsaw, but the Englishmen of New Model Army really defined the term. They started off as a punk band and each album that followed was a darker step forward into increasingly lush musical ground. "Between Wine and Blood" is a double album or rather an EP with a live album attached. I can name the number of live albums I like on one hand, so we are just going to focus on the new stuff since this is 2014, and the songs you wrote yesterday only account for you legacy and not your destiny. The rock swing of has the rugged Social Distortion shuffle . There is more of a rock swagger than the brooding post- punk pound. The chorus almost like something Thin Lizzy or mid-period Alice Cooper would have done.  Justin Sullivan's baritone sounds increasingly leathery on this one , but is more of a smoothed out croon by the following song.

There is an almost metal chug to "Angry Planet".  It rocks, but the most noticeable change to me and granted this is the first time I have given their more recent more chance, is that bassist Dean White who is also credited as one of the album's producers falls dramatically short of the chops Nelson their bassist of 22 years possessed. This gives the songs a much more straight forward feel, yet songs like "Angry Planet derive their power from other sources.

There is a thunderous charge to "Guessing" that finds the band plowing away like much younger punks. Sullivan's voice showing little change from the bands glory days. His vocals are also strong, though showing a much different side when they take on a very Nick Cave like quality on the lonely high way ballad "Happy to be Here". The lyrics alone make the song work, voice warms the darkness around them. His voice shows a little of the age it's  weathered on "Devil's Bargain", though he shakes this on a few crooned notes he sustains. The drumming and feel of the song reminds me of the dark ages of the band that I hold the closest.

It's on "Sunrise" that finds the band back at their more progressive side. The bass line grows adventurous, recalling Nelson's style of playing. The backing vocals are the only odd element as they sound like they would be more at home on one of Sting's solo albums. But this is me holding the band up to a precedent set in the 80's. They have been through as many line-up changes as Spinal Tap at this point. Sullivan gets credit for upholding his vision for the band blending elements of moody punk with the band's ever progressing desire to out do it's self musically. I'll give this a 9.5 and get used to the background vocals.

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