New Model Army have had a recent resurgence in both creativity and popularity. Their recent two sister albums, Between Dog & Wolf (2013) and Between Wine & Blood (2014), opened up new creative doors for the band, and attracted a lot of positive reviews, as well as seeing chart success in the UK for the first time in several years.
Their 13th studio album, ‘Winter’ is to be released 26 August on their own label Attack Attack. Thirteen tracks that bear the familiar trademark passion and urgency that have marked NMA since their early post-punk days of the 80s. Forever stepping aside any push to place them into a box their albums have all carried a particular identity. ‘Winter’ is fundamentally a rock album, more aggressive than their recent offerings, and delivered with an intensity and romance that whets the appetite for those queuing up to see them tour this Autumn.
The opening bars of the first track ‘Beginning’ pound with a rather turgid distorted bass, and a few listeners unfamiliar with NMA may stumble at this hurdle, but gradually the track opens up. The second half builds to a fervent conclusion with the lyric pleading through clenched fist to ‘hold on!’ The outro soars and leads seamlessly into the politically charged and swaggering ‘Burn the Castle’. A strong start to a strong album.
The title track ‘Winter’ follows. Gentler and more vulnerable, but not relinquishing in it’s imperativeness. Released this week as a double A side 7″ with the track ‘Devil’, both different in feel and real growers with repeated listens.
Lyrically, the wonder of nature is often referenced in NMA lyrics, and along with almost seer-like words of wisdom and biblical references, there is a tension between hope, faith, beauty and injustice throughout this album as there has been on others. ‘Part the Waters’, referencing a modern day exodus, and ‘Die Trying’ that poignantly highlights the plight of those who’ve subsequently made it as far as Calais, are examples of Justin Sullivan’s ability to take such pertinent issues such as human migration and balance this against history and the need for justice and deliverance. In his words, this is very much an album that speaks to those in difficult places. The songs that follow may tell other stories, but a similar vein runs throughout – yearning and searching – bringing a cohesiveness that does make for an essential listen.
NMA have long since left the post-punk that marked their earlier albums. However, there is a fresh energy in their song writing that is strongly reminiscent of those earlier times, and with a meticulous maturity in the production ‘Winter’ is beautiful in places, tangible and engaging.
Despite never appealing to the main stream, NMA have kept themselves a step ahead. Anticipating changes in the music industry and outlasting many of their peers. Long term artistic collaborator Joolz Denby provides the outwork as she has always done and it is exciting to see her talents broadening. They still move under the radar in the UK despite the likes of BBC 6 championing their music. Maybe this is what keeps them relevant and sensitive to the zeitgeist.
‘Winter’ can be purchased on all the usual formats, including double gatefold vinyl. If you’ve not listened to NMA before, this is a good time to start.