BLACK COUNTRY NEW ROAD
For The First Time
First of all, we should deal with the terribly misleading name. The band does not hail from Dudley, Wolverhampton, or any other part of the Black Country. None of the band have worked in any of the above’s local authorities Transportation Departments and, to date, no planning applications for new roads have yet to be submitted.
These grumbles aside, the debut album from this septet is a triumph. Like a perfect photograph of a sunrise, you feel that, if captured a moment sooner or later, the light would be less dazzling. Take the former single 'Sunglasses' - in 2019, Isaac Woods overwrought screamed vocals seemed to be those of a privileged kid having a petulant strop, mithering about minutiae and repeatedly screaming of 'Fuck me like you mean it' over a claustrophobic indie backing.
The re-recording here is a significant improvement, the instruments are no longer playing the part of a supporting role, there's more space, there's more nuance to Wood's delivery and, occasionally, he even sings. The over-sharing of swearing has been removed and the song actually builds and builds to its emotionally draining conclusion. I still bury my head into my hands when I hear the line about sacrificing a goat on the otherwise dazzling 'Track X' (note how the band sounds as close as they have so far to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, whilst Woods delivers his perplexing monologue). However, it's the much-discussed bursts of Klezmer music that lifts this record, starting with the exuberant horns of the opening 'Instrumental' (yes, the titles are that basic) and then exuberant swirls of closer 'Opus' which matches Woods cryptic complaints so keenly. It brings the album to a dizzying climax.
'For The First Time' may be one of the finest musical achievements of 2021. Cherish it before it goes.
For the First Time on Bandcamp (although it's everywhere too)