Experimental and Promising; A Review of Black Country, New Road’s ‘For The First Time’

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Black Country, New Road’s debut album, titled For the First Time comes after two years of anticipation from audiences. Having made live appearances since late 2018 and releasing their first single just over two years ago (which would show up in a new recording on this album), the band – comprising of Isaac Wood, Georgia Ellery, Lewis Evans, Tyler Hyde, May Kershaw, Charlie Wayne and Luke Mark – have gradually picked up a cult following, often being attributed to the other recent (mainly British) experiments in post-punk rock, like King Krule, Black Midi and Jerkcurb, for their experimental approach to post-punk.

So, it certainly makes sense that when, after so much anticipation, their debut album finally released it would be a hit… however, it seems that For The First Time has really taken critics by storm. Running at a relatively short 41 minutes, the album is a brilliantly produced mixture of prog-rock and post-punk meeting with the even more out there influences of the likes of Scott Walker (which is obvious from the second that vocalist Isaac Wood thunders onto ‘Athens, France’, but is semi-ironically claimed by Wood himself on ‘Sunglasses’ when he proclaims “I’m a modern Scott Walker!”) and free jazz of the 60s and 70s.

With so many instruments fighting for their moments on the record, it has to be said that the final product is shockingly harmonious and clean throughout. Much of the record has a pretty and gentle sound, one that occasionally erupts into something far angrier (as on the second half of ‘Sunglasses’ – maybe the best moment on the album, contained within the best song – one with a phenomenal progression, particularly from the saxophone) before lulling once again – ‘Track X’ is particularly soft and beautiful, largely thanks to the choir accompanying the hook and the lead guitar riff.

For a debut album, it shows serious promise – Wood’s lyrics are intense and incredibly well performed, and everybody brings their A-game to the instrumentation (though a special mention is needed for Charlie Wayne on drums and Tyler Hyde on bass – both know exactly when to let the others take over and when to force themselves into the mix more). It may be a little too concise – just missing an extra kick – but the 41 minutes that is here is some of the best rock music of the last few years. Immediately striking and unique, genuinely haunting and showing the serious talent of this young group of musicians, For the First Time is certainly the most exciting new rock album for some time, and is hopefully only the beginning for Black Country, New Road.

For the First Time is available to stream now via Ninja Tune. Listen to the original recording of ‘Sunglasses’ below:

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Second year film student - film, music and poetry fan!

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