New release

Track X marks the spot

Black Country, New Road emerged from the burgeoning scene around vaunted Brixton venue The Windmill, which gave rise to many of their peers, including Fat White Family, black midi, and Squid. After incendiary live shows and a trio of incredible singles, the group is about to release its debut lp.

Thankfully, touch wood, I have avoided the worst the pandemic has had to offer. Obviously, the forced estrangement takes its toll; my job being made redundant was a blow.

But it’s the lost time that hurts. My children’s youth being insidiously drained from them. Identikit days flying by. No real break in the routine to look forward to.

The new release by BC, NR threw this chronological chasm into sharp relief. Seems like yesterday when the band’s jaw-droppingly brilliant single ‘Sunglasses’ came screaming out of the radio. (Turns out this single was released in mid-2019, which makes the passing time even more marked.)

Routines changed and the band fell from my attention. News that their debut lp, For the first time, is due for release piqued the interest.

A primer single, the pensive Track X, heralded the album’s launch. It brings to mind wizened US artists like Bill Callahan and Lift to Experience, in stark contrast to the youngsters that comprise BC, NR. Track X is a much more sedate affair compared with ‘Sunglasses’, which echoed the criminally overlooked dub-punk legends The Pop Group – all horns, jagged guitars, sensational drumming.

(Anything that shines a light on The Pop Group is to be applauded, like St Vincent covering ‘She Is Beyond Good and Evil’ on The Jimmy Fallon Show. See for yourself. Layer on layer of bizarre.)

Speaking about the new single, frontman Isaac Wood said: “‘Track X’ is a song we first worked on in 2018 but one that never made it out into our live performances. We decided to resurrect it during the recording of For the first time and assemble it in the studio. The story is old but a good one and worth telling. We believe that people will enjoy singing along.”

Video still from Black Country, New Road’s new single Track X.

Debut single ‘Athen’s, France’ and follow-up ‘Sunglasses’ were re-recorded for the long player to fit in tonally with the rest of the tracks. A different approach to lyric writing was explored too. Listeners of a sensitive disposition should approach BC, NR with care.

Furthermore, Wood has shifted away from the spoken word approach of earlier material. “Speaking lyrics made sense at the time and was what I was comfortable with while learning to be a frontman,” he says. “Some things lend themselves to being spoken but there’s space for things to be sung – which feels more natural and less intense. It doesn’t always make sense for me to have this very aggressive spoken word over things – there’s room to perform in harmony with the band.” 

“We can play quietly. We’ve taken that and used it so it’s more dynamic. Intensity worked for us with those early recordings, like ‘oh my god this band is so intense and angsty’, but this record is a much more considered approach.”

Lewis Evans

Explaining further about the group’s debut album, Wood said: “We see this as being a stop in the road.  I’ve always been interested in a really honest portrayal of what a band is and what they’ve been working on. I think it’s really nice if people can see an artist like: this was them in the early days, this was their next phase and that they’re quite clear and honest about genuine progression as people and musicians.”

For the first time (Ninja Tune) is out February 5, 2021. BC, NR will livestream from Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre on March 6. The band has also rescheduled a major European tour for the end of 2021. Tickets available here.

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