Cue rough uptempo vigorous repetitive electric guitar lick quickly followed by the warm earthy tones of Justin Sullivan’s vocals soon to be joined by an acoustic guitar being attacked with venom and purpose before the drums join in with a ricocheting tribal rhythm and ‘First Summer After’ is burrowing into your brain with a sound and attack that is the first new New Model Army track of the 2024 album whilst also drawing on early sounds made by the band who on this opening evidence have lost none of the anger and attack that fuelled them over the past decades. The Bass line is struck with force that drives you into the second song which opens with an equally aggressive Bass line. ‘Language’ is a snarling throbbing uptempo slice of old school-stripped back New Model Army. I like where this is taking me, I’m liking it a lot with every play.
It’s unfussy bare boned NMA there are no strings no hushed tones or lush deliveries this is toe to toe in your face. You can feel the breath from the vocals being howled out in your ear being ably backed by the band’s most aggressive-sounding album for a while. ‘Reload’ is the sound of the UK or the parts of the UK that are tuned in and switched on and fed up to fuck with the current incumbents of parliament and their hollow rhetoric and constant bullshit. The Riff is a grunting poked beast that is salivating as it strains on the leash to be set free. A most excellent song and nails the mood of the lyrics.
Sullivan expressed the story behind ‘I Did Nothing Wrong’ and the latest miscarriage of Justice engulfing the UK for the past few weeks with every Tory jumping on the bandwaggon expressing outrage at the poor predicament of ex-postmasters who got fucked over by a corrupt system. some insight into the lyrics adds gravitas and weight to the song and elevates this body of work even further. ‘Cold Wind’ is the first hushed intro on the record with acoustic guitar and some twisted samples paving the way as the darker side of the record takes you on a journey that enables you to take stock and breathe in what’s already come before it.
The reflective mood of 2019s ‘From Here’ is swept aside on ‘Unbroken’ for a darker more aggressive edge none more evident than the Early Nirvana ‘Blew’ era post-punk of ‘Coming Or Going’ if you’re looking for an album to lift you for the political fights about to engulf the UK and USA then let this album take the strain. It’s punching and swinging haymakers that would terrify bands half their age and some. Sullivan is moving towards retirement age and is up for the fight on this record. The self-reflecting continues on ‘If I’m Still Me’ which might explain the sound of this album and I can assure you – Fuckin’ right you are still you. This album is a nugget of solid gold with eleven of the finest New Model Army songs you could wish to hear. To come up with an album this strong is a testament to the talent of the band and its main protagonist Justin Sullivan for continuing this journey over many decades and still having the ability to write the best most complete album for several decades (and I’m someone who loves this band and has always championed their records even in the years where they weren’t a chart bothering beat combo).
I love the delay and reverb on the bass line in ‘Legend’ proper ‘Vengence’ tip of the hat there. The more I’ve played this album the better it gets with different songs jostling for my attention every time. Uncomplicating their core sound and stripping it back wasn’t something I expected at all especially after ‘Sinfonia’.
As the album reaches its climax you are taken on a late night stripped bare ‘Idumea’ with harmonies that are rich and warm and after the softer intro, the tribal rhythms take you off on another journey with some folky melodies and a softer song to offer hope with big choir vocals. but hold onto your strides there is one last push as the record is signed off with ‘Deserters’ and its thumping bass-driven song.
New Model Army have delivered the good and an album that will be riding high in my end-of-year top album list without a shadow of a doubt. A band I’ve had playing in my ears since the mid-80s and who have delivered some of the best albums I’ve had in my collection on multiple formats for all of my youth and adulthood and I still get excited when a new album hits and having the privilege of hearing it before its release is an honor, and for me to try and do it justice and get you as excited as I was when I first heard it. Simple this one – Buy it!