Album Review: Black Country, New Road – For the first time

By Madeleine Rosie Strom

Black Country New Road is like eating popcorn at a cinema. You know you should share it with the people around you, because you know they will like it and enjoy it. At the same time, you want to keep it to yourself, so you can have the pleasure that only you have the popcorn. That is exactly what writing this review is like. With the release of their debut album For the first time, I am prepared to put my sheer love for this band out to the public, knowing they will be one of Britain’s biggest new rock bands this year. 

They are so hypnotising, mesmerising and oddly unique, that one cannot simply forget about their existence after listening to them. It may only be February, but I know this album will be a firm favourite of mine for the rest of 2021. 

With seven members, BCNR utilises their instruments, allowing each one their rightful spotlight.

Right from the start, we are introduced to their complexity. Instrumental opens the album, being true to its name, a song lacking vocals. But, it does not need vocals. A musical funfare, joyous to listen to, there is this sense of optimism that is created so early on, but then distorts throughout the track. It provides enough intensity to prepare you for the rest of the album, but does not exhaust you to the point of rendering you unable to listen anymore. 

Oddly, only two out of the six songs are completely new to the ears and out of the four that remain, Athen’s France and Sunglasses had both been reworked for the album. This, I must admit, was a choice I was not a fan of. The songs were now more melodic, drums becoming more upbeat, lyrics sung rather than raspily talked by the frontman Isaac Wood. I preferred the awkwardness, the rising tension that Black Country New Road were able to create within Athen’s France. Even then, they are still able to retain their humorous lyrics, we see ‘She is very young, and well versed, and demanding’ changed to ‘ I know I am young, but I am working, working on the glow up’. Perhaps, if I did not know of them before their debut release, I would have nothing ill to say, my criticism comes from a place of adoration for the band’s distinctiveness. 

With seven members, BCNR utilises their instruments, allowing each one their rightful spotlight. Sunglasses blend of saxophone, guitar and drums creates a cacophony, a wacky blend of pure noise that is both disrupting and inviting. After, we are soothed by violins and a more vocal-led piece within Track X – proving that BCNR can create a perfect harmony between slow and fast, abrasive and gentle.

Daring and exciting, Black Country New Road offers a dizzying new sound to penetrate the British rock scene.

There is not simply a range of instruments, but also of themes. Each song carries a different tone and genre, it is an album composed of individuality. Even within each song, the mood changes drastically, the listener is propelled into the unknown with no warning at all.  Science Fair begins with a recount, describing how ‘It was at the Cambridge Science Fair And she was so impressed I could make so many things catch on fire’. Somehow, we end the song hearing the shouting of Wood screaming ‘I was born to run, It’s black country out there’. This franticness descends to a cathartic ending in the last track Opus. It serves as a comedown and as a revelation, simultaneously calming and energising. When live shows start to be introduced to our life again, I know I will be at the front row exerting every ounce of energy I have to this track. 

Daring and exciting, Black Country New Road offers a dizzying new sound to penetrate the British rock scene. An unforgettable debut album, I just hope their next releases can live up to the masterpiece they have created so early on in their career. 

Featured Image from Unsplash by @asafyrov

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