Rod Liddle

Pretty astonishing: Black Country, New Road’s Ants From Up There reviewed

There are still pockets of brilliance in pop. The rewards from this youngish Cambridge band are immense

Pretty astonishing: Black Country, New Road's Ants From Up There reviewed
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Grade: A+

It is not true, fellow boomers, that there is nothing new under the sun nor no good new music being made. Just almost nothing new and almost nothing good. The majority is indeed toxic landfill, rehashes of that least appealing of decades, the 1980s, and performed by pasty-faced, limp-wristed, deluded woke idiots whose chief concern is to tell you their gender.

But there are yet pockets of brilliance, just as there were in 1975 and 1995 — and this youngish Cambridge band (the only other place they could have come from is Oxford) inhabit one of those pockets. Upon completion of this, their second album, the lead singer Isaac Wood left the band because, so far as I could tell from his confused message on the band’s website, he was going round the bend. But don’t let that put you off. Filed casually under post-rock and post-punk and usually compared to the vastly inferior Arcade Fire, this is a pretty astonishing album for its sheer breadth of musical invention.

It owes more to jazz and modern classical music than rock and were it not for Wood’s fragile vocals — which sometimes bring to mind a likeable village idiot — that is where they would reside, I think. They have added to their repertoire of weird time signatures and the usual stop-start stuff an extraordinary melodic flair — at its best here on the minimalist ‘Holdern’ and the exquisite ‘Mark’s Theme’. They have a tendency towards the anthemic — hence the Arcade Fire comparisons — but have sufficient restraint to employ deferred gratification: you wait for the songs to resolve themselves, and when they do the reward is immense. They are something new under the sun.