Black Country, New Road has been an interesting band in the punk scene, since they don’t visually represent the aesthetic. But the music they make is as archaic as some of the bands of yester. It has these intricacies that lead you into a world of complete astoundment. Mostly because the blending of these two sounds are usually rare. However, this was previously seen on the Viagra Boys album, Welfare Jazz, released earlier in January and they made it work as well as pretty well. Though Black Country, New Road is not them and they bring different life to the blending of post-punk and jazz on their debut album For the First Time allowing for it to triumphantly claim its way as one of the best albums of 2021… so far.
For the First Time details a relationship through memories that, at times, are obscure from the conventional. They lay the groundwork early as the opening track “Instrumental,” is a piece from the 7-person ensemble. Black Country, New Road brings a chaotic element to the horn work one minute in, playing off with veracity.
Similarly, this is evident in parts of “Opus,” where they let it rely on orchestrating symmetry in both sound and story telling to great effect. But it doesn’t falter like the slightly middling “Science Fair,” where it takes a slight chaotic turn and makes it a deterrent. The isolated grunge-like guitars in the opening breaks from the stigmatic keys and percussion. It adds to something that didn’t really need it. Like when a directors cut lengthens a shot for “artistic purposes.” After that initial hump, the song carries enough equilibrium to merit listening to the rest of it though.
Fortunately the songwriting throughout the album is one of the best things about For the First Time. The unique framework behind the progression of the story allows the telling of the memories to play off the chaotic nature of “Instrumental.” But at the same time it allows itself to delve deeper into the post-punk genre with melodic notes and beautifully complex writing from Isaac Wood.
It’s on the rest of the album where the cadence is heard from the violins and keys, as Saxophonist Lewis Evans relies on the subtleties. You can hear that eloquence on tracks “Opus” and “Athens, Greece.”
Georgia Ellery’s violin work on “Track X,” comes to mind. The central focus is this rustic and aggressively somber notes that speaks a story all its own, adding to the words from Isaac Wood. It’s the shortest of the bunch and completely memorable, unlike “Sunglasses,” where the first minute and a half feels like an unwarranted sound check. But the rest of the 7 or so minutes fuses great rustic Sax notes and guitar strings and melancholic moods for a Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde kind of transition.
If you need more evidence, they drop the line “Leave Kanye out of this,” as to show indication that sunglasses are a metaphor for a defense mechanism we use on multiple occasions. In a way resonate of a time when Kanye was in a dark place after his mothers death and he used music/fashion to hide the demons. Coincidentally he made shutter shades a thing again. It stands out due to the historical/mental health related themes within the whole song.
It’s astounding how masterfully produced and mixed For the First Time is for a debut album. It brings Black Country, New Road center stage as one of the few rock bands to keep an eye on for the future as their ceiling is still higher. The way they are blending the two genres work in more ways than none as opposed to feeling completely mundane and inconsistent, which is to its benefit as tracks usually eclipse 5 minutes. You should definitely give it a chance, especially if you are instrumentally curious.