Label: Ninja Tune
Released: 4th February 2022
Where to begin with a band like Black Country, New Road? Exploding out of cult status at the start of last year with ‘For The First Time’, a chaotic, post-post-post-everything not just punk rampage that crashed through genres like a skittering dog and gained itself a Mercury nomination in the process. But for everyone who fell adoringly at its feet, there were some who felt it was all ‘a bit much actually’. This swift follow-up somehow manages the neat trick of pleasing the lovers while showing everyone else a new side and a good time too.
A much more understated and deliberately less abrasive record, ‘Ants From Up There’ is taken from an entirely different world influences-wise. Indie-folk with a huge slice of ‘EPIC’, huge choral moments that make you feel invincible, wildly and wonderfully overblown in places, someone needs to get (early) Arcade Fire on the phone and say their time is up. Still with a dry sense of humour (really, there can be no other reason for that stray ‘parp’ sixteen seconds into ‘Chaos Space Marine’), gone is the angsty railing and wailing, replaced instead on tracks like ‘Concorde’ and ‘Bread Song’ with an exquisitely emotional and fragile sense of something that once soared hitting emotional trouble – one of many potential readings into Isaac Wood’s vague yet precise lyrics. The sound swirls and storms on the latter track, raising the pulse, goosebumps and maybe even a tear in the process.
Where they once may have started tracks at 200mph and then put the foot down from there, this takes their sweet time and is all the more powerful for it. Finishing on a magnificent closing trio, the middle of which is album standout ‘Snowglobes’, a track that slowly builds over into an earth-crushing crescendo before retreating back into calmness. The fact that is then followed by long-time live fan favourite ‘Basketball Shoes’, finally making its recorded debut, is a stunning follow-up blow as it does the same thing again but in an even grander manner and for even longer. A phenomenal record, and excitingly, not just one for the already converted. ‘Ants From Up There’ will make everyone soar.