In Review: Black Country, New Road - For The First Time
Black Country, New Road have always set themselves apart from many of their contemporaries. Since their first couple of singles dribbled out back in 2019 on limited release they've made a name for themselves through their eclectic sense of songwriting and lyricism. Their new album For The First Time begins in a similar vein, a five-minute instrumental sweeps you into the record. It's almost as if they are not trying to write an album, but instead, create a world. Within this world, they talk of the mundane and every day happenings. Not necessarily of ordinary people, but at least what feels like the hyper observations of time spent somewhere in an art school. Their sound undoubtedly carries a brashness that isn’t found in that many other of their peers, if any.
The inventive seven-piece conjure a unique sound, centred on a heavy rhythm section punctuated by delicate instrumentalism. It is this instrumental lightness of that really sets them apart from others - the overtones of the violin and saxophone (not exactly staples of current indie bands) herald a playfulness which many others do not have in the 'oh so serious' world of post-punk and indie music.
Strangely at first, many of their assignee covers hark back to very 90-orientated graphic design. Though the link becomes slightly more obvious when you realise that bassist Tyler Hyde is the daughter of Underworld's Karl Hyde. It would be hard to argue that privilege doesn’t run through their music - their lyrics have a quaintness that tends to focus on small notions of a life in the South East of England, and this probably contributes somewhat to their more eclectic choices of instruments. At times their music seems to be influenced by Greek traditional music - mostly apparent in their first and last tracks of the album, 'Instrumental' and 'Opus'. Traditionalism, or at least the outlines of it, seems to be what gives them this uniqueness, with a folk-like narrative telling dressed up as something more alternative.
Similarly to other bands on the album cycle at present, this was recorded a year ago and has since been perpetually on hold. As they’ve already said in a few places, they’re already working on their follow-up. As strong as For The First Time is, it does not feel like they have yet reached their potential: in many ways, their 'difficult second album' may actually come not from trying to replicate the success of their debut, but instead in the task of finding their lofty potential that this ambitious album only hints at.
For The First Time is out now via Ninja Tune.