“For The First Time” Review

Araminta Siegling, Reporter

Poetry isn’t what it used to be in the 21st century, and good lyrics seem to be harder and harder to find. But in this case, slam poets wish they sounded like the up-and-coming experimental rock band, Black Country, New Road. Black Country, New Road’s debut album was released on February 5th. Fans of the band have been waiting and opinions on the new album are contradictory.  Their album is clearly influenced by the bands Black Midi and Slint. 

Members of the band include frontman Isaac Wood, drummer Charlie Wayne, guitarist Luke Mark, bassist Tyler Hyde, saxophonist Lewis Evans, and violinist Georgia Ellery. The band members were also previously in Nervous Conditions. Something very unique about the band is their use of the saxophone for a jazzy feel while juxtaposing it with intense moments of guitar. The band is heavily influenced by klezmer music, a type of Jewish folk music. 

 Many think that songs like Athens, France, and Sunglasses were completely butchered in this album. When comparing the version of Athens, France on the album to a previous release of it from Speedy Wunderground – Year 4 (Album featuring various artists like Black Midi and Squid) you can hear how the song has been changed, and this upset some fans because it sounds more “conventional” and has strayed farther from the sound that made some people originally fall in love with the band. However, with the song Sunglasses, I argue that the new version of it is better than the one in the Sunglasses single. The lyrics and the delivery of them are much more poetic in the newer version and more palatable. Sunglasses really is poetry, enhanced by the score behind it.

One listener on the popular music rating site “Rate Your Music” described this issue as “Listening to a clean radio version of the songs.”

Something unique about this band is how their lyrics can easily transition from humorous, to deeply sensitive and intimate. An example of this is in the song Sunglasses, with the lyrics “Leave Kanye out of this” and less than a minute before, vocalist Isaac Wood is confessing his feelings of being inadequate with the words “I’m so ignorant now, with all that I’ve learnt.” Wood told Apple Music that he finds himself “Equal parts effective and kind of pathetic.”

All of the songs in this album fit perfectly with one another, so it is difficult to judge them individually and not as a whole album. Listening to the album from start to finish is definitely an experience. At first, my favorite song was Sunglasses, but I have grown to love the track Science Fair. The first verse in this song is particularly good, “I met her accidentally, it was at the Cambridge Science Fair, and she was so impressed I could make so many things catch fire.”

This song also references the artist Bruce Springsteen, and his 1975 song “Born to Run”. After recognizing this, I was able to see similarities between Springsteen and Isaac Wood’s lyrics. They are both raw and emotional, sometimes angry or anxious. 

I honestly have no complaints about this album, it is very polished but not too clean sounding. The mixing is much better than in the singles, and Isaac Wood expresses himself in a more subtle and complicated way. This change adds so much more to the music. This is only their first album, and I am very excited to see what they do in the future.