Despite a revolutionary debut single with a classic first album, and an equally acclaimed sophomore album, Black Country, New Road’s (BC,NR) future was uncertain, until now.
The British post-rock band had an explosive debut in 2019 when they released “Sunglasses,” a nearly nine-minute-long single and a testament of BC,NR’s unique talent. The song, partly due to its length but also its gradual progression and tonal shifts, plays out like an epic in rock form, similar to “The End” by The Doors. It also introduced an instrumentality that would become very characteristic of BC,NR; “Sunglasses” featured not only guitars and keyboards but saxophones, accordions and even some spoken word.
2021 saw the release of their first full-length album, “For the First Time,” which captured the rock world’s attention due to its complete disregard for the genre standards that existed before it. “Ants From Up There,” their second album, provided a much more mature, refined and enjoyable presentation of BC,NR’s music, and was one of the top albums of 2022.
But as their album successfully rolled out, Isaac Wood, the band’s iconic lead vocalist, announced his departure.
Personally, I was expecting to never hear anything from BC,NR again, and was content to be satisfied with what they had already released. But on March 24, they proved me wrong as they released “Live at Bush Hall.”
This new release isn’t exactly a studio album of the same caliber as “Ants From Up There,” but “Live at Bush Hall” is no less interesting and colorful.
Containing nine songs recorded from a live show in London, the album serves as more of a state-of-things or check-in, rather than a real full-length release. Considering the previous uncertainty the band found itself to be in, “Live at Bush Hall” actually delivers much more than you would expect.
Now lacking a lead vocalist, BC,NR takes advantage of its diverse cast of talents: vocal performances are substituted by other members like Tyler Hyde, May Kershaw and Lewis Evans. Although the album lacks any tonal unity, every song feels like an individual statement, equally artistic and worthwhile on its own.
It is very difficult to put into words what their music sounds like. Everything seems so diverse and out of nowhere, yet it all fits perfectly. Each song is better described by moods, rather than technical sounds and styles.
“The Boy” has youthful joy and innocence. “Across the Pond Friend” is energetic and liberating. “Turbines/Pigs” hits you with a somber melancholy. Every song has its own character and its own story.
Still, “Live at Bush Hall” does not feel like an end product, more so a rough draft of ideas and experiments. Fortunately, they all work extremely well. If BC,NR were able to fully develop all these individual musical acts into a unified, concise album, it would easily surpass their previous work.
The most important takeaway of “Live at Bush Hall” is its statement on the band itself. Where once BC,NR existed in a questionable limbo, I could not be more excited and optimistic for their future.
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