Its been a good year for Justin Sullivan and his New Model Army.  They’ve managed to capture the essence of what the band are all about in 2019 on the record ‘From Here’ and are playing to packed venues right across Europe promoting that very same record.  Now I’ve seen the band live many times from festivals to small clubs and most venues in between but tonight I was really looking forward to what kind of set they were going to deliver.

On entering the venue I was reminded of my first foray as a young man into the belly of the beast that was a New Model Army show back in the early to mid ’80s,  they rode the crest of a wave in the mid ’80s and dented the charts and it was where tonight began as the band appeared out of the clouds of smoke on stage to head straight into ‘No Rest’ which signalled some older men to start flinging themselves around the pit like time had stood still (something they might regret come the morning) . It was without pause we headed straight into the new record from there with the epic ‘Never Arriving’ that seemed like the perfect soundtrack as the wafts of dry ice cleared and the stage bathed in red the band’s silhouettes cast large on the backdrop as the opening new track from  ‘From Here’ was received like a prodigal son.

With an immense back catalogue its always a treat to see what they will perform live as they smatter the set with “singles” it’s not nessasseraly the singles that are crowd favourites anyway.  The NMA faithful are a rabid bunch who seem to love all the songs equally but deep down they’re probably like me and wish now and again that they’ll turn up to hear a run-through of all the singles in order of release followed by the best of the rest.  Something that made me smile towards the end of the set when Justin announced that the band were quickly approaching their 40th anniversary and he might be persuaded to do a tour with that in mind but I’m not convinced and smiling as he said it he wasn’t even convincing himself, but we can certainly hope for it. 

I digress. The new album is well represented with no less than eight songs being played. The band are a well-oiled machine and the songs are performed with much passion. Ceri Monger didn’t stop and his role is such an important part of the band as half of the rhythm section that really drives the sound on the more uptempo numbers something Justin has maintained throughout the bands existance and something thats such a big part of the sound.

We were treated to a blistering run through ’51st State’ which seems like it could have been written yesterday such is the stance at Westminster these days anyway I’ll try and keep politics out of this much like Sullivan did except to use his place to plead with the audience to do anything but vote Tory which went down well in south Wales even in these messed up times.  New Model Army fans still know what’s right and wrong.

To put together a fluid setlist must be a tough call for Justin but we got ‘Believe It’ from ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’ then to follow it up with the excellent new track ‘Where I Am’ was excellent then to dip back into ‘Eight’ for a run through ‘Wipeout’ wasn’t something I was expecting.  The balance of the set was something that came across really well  ‘winter’ was appropriate and ‘State Radio’ gave the pit a second wind. then surprisingly we dipped back into ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’ for a couple more as we headed for the encore.

I was hoping for a couple of choice picks and I kept my fingers crossed for maybe ‘White Coats’ and ‘Stupid Questions’ or maybe some ‘Vengence’ but alas I got none.  However, I did get a run-through a pretty impressive ‘125 mph’ so at least there was a few off ‘Thunder And Consolation’  as ‘Bodmin Pill’ brought the encore to an end but there was a second encore from a really vocal and appreciative crowd who called the band back for the oldest track in the set ‘Betcha’ to play out as we finally made our way out into the cold evening having been treated to an impressive set from one of the UK’s best alternative and still relevant  live bands.  Tonight the New Model Army were inspiring and uplifting and I can’t wait to do it all again next year after all a promise is a promise, Justin.  See you down the front.

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Recorded in nine days on a Norwegian island New Model Army return with an album steeped in their unique sound with the unmistakable figure of Justin Sullivan leading the charge. With a more traditional sounding or should that be classic sounding New Model Army on ‘From Here’. It seems like an age when the band first announced pre-sales for this record and after releasing a couple of videos for tracks such as ‘Never Arriving’ my excitement started to peak for what the album might turn out like. With a more earthy and classic sounding arrangments, New Model Army have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into another record and the reward for the listener is twelve songs as good as anything in the band’s arsenal thus far.  From the synth-laden opener ‘Passing Through’ it’s a slow burner as the intro fades and the band harks back to a feeling they first laid on audiences way back in the ’80s and Justins narrating vocal is as warm and weathered as ever and as engaging as you’d want it to be.  The track, however, doesn’t open up but merely sets the tone.  Maybe this is something of the mature big brother to ‘Thunder And consolation’ as the acoustic guitar midway through this six-minute epic opener links with the rhythmic drumming before the crunching heaving electric guitar joins the fray.

As far as openers go this is huge and the tone of ‘From Here’ is set. ‘Never Arriving’ is also over five minutes long as Sullivan takes us through his spoken rather than sung lyrics.  The band might have chosen a bleak environment to record in but this record sounds driven and whilst complex its a record that will take some investing in. Sure fans of the band will take that time and give it the attention it deserves but I doubt Justin is looking nor cares for instant fleeting engagement. If you know you know.

There are no two-minute pop songs here rather post four minutes as a rule but the sprightly tempo of ‘The Weather’ with its acoustic strumming is a different texture to the two previous numbers the instruments weave like knotted branches so NMA yet unique and bloody good.

 

I’ve alluded to the fact this record for some reason harks back to the classic heights of ‘Green And Grey’ period for the band although Sullivan is the sole torch-carrier of the band these days it’s in the makeup and ‘End Of Days’ is uptempo and the first track that was released from the record and is a great addition to the catalogue of thumpers written and released by the band.

‘Great Disguise’ builds and builds as Sullivan paints his landscape in your mind’s eye whereas ‘Conversation’ is big broad strokes of that familiar acoustic guitar mixed with rhythmic drums and a story unfolds of travel and landscape earth and water. Sullivan has always done well to paint bleak and cold portraits but in a warm and engaging way it’s what he does really well and this is a great example.

‘Hard Way’ is a darker slower introduction that spends the next four minutes building up and up to layered vocals and heaving bass throb but quickly drops back something of a bloodletting before ushering in ‘Watch And Learn’ with its more aggressive thrust.

‘Maps’ is timpani and cello and maybe driven by the recordings environment with a sense of where you are captured within its tracks as Sullivan sings about his surroundings.  Ending the record with the title track ‘From Here’ is eight minutes of soundscape and sparse piano before the familiar tribal drum patterns signal a rumbling Bassline but you’ll have to wait almost five minutes before an electric guitar chimes in and pierces the trance-like rhythm.

Like I mentioned earlier this might not be the record you want to make your New Model Army debut maybe lock into the best of then come and visit ‘From HEre’ and the experience will be far more rewarding.  Old fans – fill yer boots this is a journey that will take you through multiple emotions pick you up and put you down but always leave you coming back for more.  I’ve enjoyed thus far dipping in here and there and equally immersing from start to finish.  ‘From Here’ will not dissapoint.

Buy ‘From Here’: Here

Author: Dom Daley