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Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There Music Album Reviews

Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There Music Album Reviews
The exceptional second album from the London group plays like a slow burn to a triumphant finale. Softer and more melodic, the band remains just as challenging and delightfully confounding as ever.

The Concorde jet: aeronautical disgrace, financial boondoggle, multinational embarrassment. Hell of a metaphor, though. Isaac Wood returns to it repeatedly throughout Black Country, New Road’s second album, Ants From Up There, most pointedly on the thematic centerpiece that bears its name. “I was made to love you, can’t you tell?” Wood pleads as “Concorde” reaches a dizzying altitude, desperately embodying a romantic sunk cost fallacy, throwing good love after bad.

Until about a week ago, Ants From Up There could be heard as a classic breakup album. All seven members of the London band amplify the dynamics of Wood’s every convulsion, from giddy infatuation to paralyzing despair, as he desperately sacrifices his serenity for a tragic and heroic cause. But on January 31, the band announced, through Wood’s own emotional letter, that he “won’t be a member of the group anymore,” and that the remaining members will carry on without him. So now the question is, “Break up with whom?” “Isaac will suffer, Concorde will fly,” he sings a minute earlier on “Concorde.” Perhaps he’s talking to the band he’d leave four days before they shared a triumphant album with the rest of the world.

For all of the doubt the circumstances around Ants From Up There casts on the band’s immediate prospects, they’re right about where they left off nearly a year ago to the day. Both of Black Country, New Road’s studio albums are final destinations, bringing closure to a yearlong stage of roadtesting new material. Almost 75 percent of their 2021 debut, For the first time, had been available and loudly celebrated before its release, and when the album came out, the band began to distance themselves from their “phase one.” “There will be a clear delineation between these first 18 months…and what follows,” saxophonist Lewis Evans stated nearly four months before their debut LP. “We’ve gone in a new direction and are writing with a new ethos.” Ants From Up There’s very first moments re-introduces a band that could not be more excited about where things were headed. Whereas For the first time began with an audacious and alienating six-minute instrumental, this “Intro” lasts 54 seconds before barging right into what the band has called the “best song we’ve ever written.” They’re not wrong.

“And though England is mine, I must leave it all behind,” Wood announces as the album’s opening statement, a newly handsome lilt bearing a quintessential BC, NR lyric: brash enough to double as a pull quote for an NME cover and subject to granular pop culture forensics. It’s definitely a reference to the tabletop game Warhammer 40,000, maybe a tweak of the Smiths’ “Still Ill,” and, hopefully, a shot at the wave of talky UK post-rock bands that Black County, New Road were once part of and have now graduated from. “Chaos Space Marine” might be better described as pre-rock, touching on klezmer, chamber music, jazz, or any form of pop that used strings or horns as primary instruments.

A few years removed from cheeky references to professing love at a black midi show and singing about how they’re “the world’s second-best Slint tribute act,” bassist Tyler Hyde claims that during the writing process of Ants From Up There, Black Country, New Road became obsessed with Arcade Fire. In the same interview, drummer Charlie Wayne implies that they set out to make an album full of hits, having run up debts that put them in grave legal and/or physical peril. Both statements speak to the band's wry sense of humor—of the 10 songs on Ants From Up There, two are instrumentals and five are at least six minutes long. The album’s purest pop moment—Wood crooning, “She had Billie Eilish style/Moving to Berlin for a little while” during “Good Will Hunting,” as a THX synth renders it appropriately cinematic—could possibly spawn an entire TikTok subgenre for the rest of 2022. Yet the song itself shifts rhythms almost constantly, its pop appeal as unorthodox as its lyrical inspiration.

Still, if they didn’t hit the mark of Arcade Fire’s Funeral, you could throw a dart at just about any critically lauded indie rock band from 2004-2007 and land on a potential comparative point. It was a time of strivers and try-hards, bands whose unwieldiness and anachronism were kinda the entire point. They worked with feverish literacy and earnest emotion, conservatory-trained musicianship and childlike whimsy. They gave themselves complicated names and used too many woodwinds and made life-altering and reflexively divisive music whose values seem wildly out of step in 2022.

A more warm and sentimental Black Country, New Road remains just as challenging and potentially confounding as their former selves; this isn’t due to any sonic alteration on Ants From Up There so much as their shift from the self-conscious remove of post-punk to the life-affirming extremity of emo. It’s not the sound, but rather the spirit of adjacent masterpieces like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, The Monitor, and Teens of Denial that extrapolate social and psychosexual turmoil to the scale of world wars—the kind that inspire painstaking Genius annotations, longing sighs of they don’t make ’em like this anymore, and also the recognition that we can only handle one of these things every six years or so.

Part of what is so effective about this style is how Wood and his bandmates manifest every glimmer of hope as a heaven-sent beacon and every letdown as a plunge towards the void. On “Bread Song,” Wood ponders the vulnerability of eating in bed while desperately squeezing his phone as if it can make his intentions more direct and compelling. The relationship dynamic— is familiar, but it’s never been heard on a song that slowly morphs from vaporous, free-time improv to bouncy township pop. Similarly, “Haldern” can only sustain itself so long against Wood’s nuclear self-pity (“Ignore the hole I dug again/It’s only for the evening”); it ends with piano keys being mashed into splinters. Wood’s singing voice recalls icons of gothic grandeur while also homing in on the quotidian textures of normal lives—“Breathe in your chicken, broccoli and everything/The tug that’s between us, that long string.” The band’s commitment to recurring motifs and cross-references ensures that Wood’s world remains somewhat coherent, though trying to explain it by analogy results in absurdly incongruous and incredible dream dates: Los Campesinos! covering Feels? Nick Cave …Is a Real Boy?

In their new incarnation, Black Country, New Road wield something far more exciting than mastery: an open invitation to their process. The placeholder titles of “Bread Song” and “Haldern” reflect their origins as improv exploration; the latter emerged from a 12-minute jam in the middle of a half-hour festival live stream set, between “Athens, France” and a Weezer cover. Even without the YouTube archives, it’s easy to picture the evolution of “Snow Globes” in real time; a braid of harmonized guitars repeats until the strings follow suit, all while Hyde bashes away in a completely different meter, a provocation and also a fitting rhythm to Wood’s slow-motion implosion. What could’ve been a mesmerizing one-minute interlude expands to a nine-minute devotional. The 12-minute closer, the remarkable “Basketball Shoes,” is a kind of “True Love Waits” of Black Country, New Road’s Isaac Wood era, a song that’s been spoken of with hushed reverence by fans since the band’s early days and has gone through numerous versions and rewrites since 2019. His final line as the frontman of Black Country, New Road looks at a relationship—a lover, the audience, himself—and sums it up: “All I’ve been forms the drone/We sing the rest/Oh, your generous loan to me/Your crippling interest.”

Since the release of the lead single “Chaos Space Marine” in October of last year, Wood had been preparing us for a Viking funeral of an album—not just because he yelps, “So I’m leaving this body/And I’m never coming home again!” As shocking as Wood’s departure is right now, it just sped up the inevitable: Most bands eventually collapse, and most relationships between people in their early 20s do as well. Knowing how it all ends does nothing to detract from the joy Black Country, New Road have poured into Ants From Up There—not when they spend every second reminding us of why we let ourselves get swept up in these beautifully doomed fantasies to begin with.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There Music Album Reviews Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 Rating: 5

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