New Model Army : From Here
I recently saw New Model Army described as the ultimate outsider band.
I think that crown probably belongs to the Insane Clown Posse but
perhaps NMA can have ultimate British outsider band although they
might have to fight Culture Shock for the crown. Anyway, certainly
it's unlikely that anyone is going to read this and, if they do it's
even less likely they will listen to the album but anyway, fuck you.
Here it is!
I know nothing about music. I really don't and never
have. As a result I have always reviewed music by twisting and turning
so that I can bring in what I do know which is photography. Above
is a photograph I took at Hurricane Ridge here in Washington State.
It holds a special meaning for me as it was taken with my father,
mother and daughter, and my father really loved being up there so
high and seeing the wild flowers and the deer and the hawks circling
(damn, I'm starting to sound like a NMA lyric!). It was only a few
years after that my dad's decline really set in and he got sicker
and sicker and would never see a place like this again.
Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that I took
this photo. Brought it home and worked it up in Photoshop and filed
it away. I thought nothing much more of it. It's a nice photo but
it doesn't have a hook. Nothing to immediately grab you. Luckily Lola,
my wife, spotted it, perhaps on my Flickr stream and decided she wanted
a print of it. So I ordered a print and framed and hung it in our
bedroom. Over the years it has grown to be one of my favourite photographs.
It's not flashy, it has no central point of attention and yet it has
peace and serenity and a deep beauty that you won't see if you don't
live with it for a while. And in these days of images flashing by
us at such speed everyone is ensuring their selfies and snuck images
have a huge fucking central point because otherwise your picture is
floating off down the digital Nile never to be seen again.
This album is like this image. I have loved New Model Army for decades.
Justin Sullivan, who will always be Slade the Leveller to me, is a
genuinely masterful lyricist up there in the pantheon with Shane McGowan
and Jaques Brel. As the band has aged his lyrics have become sadder,
perhaps less angry and more beautiful. When I listened to From Here
the first couple of times I was disappointed. I could tell his lyricism
was alive and well but there didn't seem to be any songs here to grab
the listener. No anthems to holler at hot and sweaty and thrashing
gigs in small venues. No Christian Militia or Vengeance here. And
yet I persisted. I kept listening a few more times and, like the above
image I came to see the beauty and the hooks revealed themselves.
Now I really like this album. The music drives and thuds and has so
much genuine talent. The lyrics are still so thoughtful and unusual.
How many luddite punk rock bands are there anyway? Maybe the ones
with the true courage of their convictions aren't available on Google
Play Music but fuck the purists. We all gotta eat.
From Here is a wonderful album all around and joins a long and storied
canon of NMA songs to be an outsider to. Long may I be outside with
Four mountains out of five on the bleak northern hills scale.
Phil Rose Esq
New Model Army play across Europe during autumn
2019, details here
Warning - Sounds Better on Vinyl!