Black Country, New Road
For the first time


3.7
great

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
February 5th, 2021 | 271 replies


Release Date: 02/05/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: REFERENCES REFERENCES REFERENCES

Black Country, New Road were victims of themselves. The hype for their first two singles, especially the fever-dream bloodletting "Sunglasses", was eclipsed only by the acclaim over their manic, highly regarded live shows. Gems seemed to pour from their fists at an alarming rate, provided you were up-to-date with the bootleg circuit; here a gnarly post-punk banger about Kendall Jenner or blowing things up at the Cambridge Science Fair, there a 15-minute behemoth about a Charli XCX dream which is as funny as it is oddly moving. It seemed like Black Country, New Road could do no wrong - which is, of course, the worst position for any band to be in. The weight of expectation must have been crushing.

The fact that For the first time is still pretty good – great, actually, but not critical-discourse first-album-knockout-great – is something to be toasted. The British seven-piece bar band/free jazz enthusiasts/Slint tribute act simply took a selection from their live repertoire and laid it on a 6-track, 40-minute record. It's almost shockingly straightforward, from the folks who debuted with "Sunglasses", but at the same time it's the only debut album they could have made. Their live shows may be constantly mutating, pushing into stranger and thornier and sometimes more tender territory, but they needed something on record to show the world where they started. To wit: the album title, the short runtime, the safe tracklist with re-recordings of their now iconic singles.

Okay, so the new versions aren't good. Particularly "Sunglasses", boasting a powerful new droning guitar intro which quickly gives way to the exact same song recorded slightly faster, but with far less passion and intensity. "Athens, France" fares a little better: the new lyrics are actually interesting enough to beg for more than just a redo of the old instrumental. Seemingly musing on the same relationship with the benefit of hindsight, the change from the stunningly nasty "she tries to fuck me, I pretend that I'm asleep instead" to a self-reflective "I write the words I'll one day wish that I had never said" creates a fascinating dialogue between the new song and the original. Still, it says a lot that the best cut here is the only one not extensively previewed live. "Track X", a truly lovely orchestrated spin on the "Sunglasses" melody, takes the band's irony-soaked, sometimes suffocatingly sardonic humour into a place refreshingly vulnerable and honest. The warped carnivalesque "Instrumental" and "Opus" bookend the album with a Mr. Bungle-style ridiculousness, while the plain but excellent "Science Fair" packs everything people love and/or hate about this band – lyrics too clever by half, spindly Slint-esque guitars creating a background for manic horns to rise in a frenzy – into six minutes and change. If you came into this album with no concept of the band's history but a taste for their kind of insanity, you'd likely think For the first time was a slam dunk.

Truth is, Black Country, New Road defied the blogosphere/indiehead/Pitchfork-lead bullshit craving for easily dismissed black-and-white content. They delivered neither a classic nor an embarrassing flop that revealed them as a flavour-of-the-week fancy, but just a pretty good album with room to improve. It's all there in "Track X", in its simplicity and humble dynamics and naked emotionality; it's there in the song which could act as a link to the band's future rather than just a document of their beginning. If For the first time truly is the singular text on their first 18 months as a band, then hearing how tantalisingly close it is to greatness, and how often it gets lost in the weeds instead? I cannot fucking wait to hear the next 18.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


44707 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

obligatory "look how they massacred my boy" comment for Sunglasses. rest in power king etc

Digging: Hayley Williams - FLOWERS for VASES / descansos

AxeToFall93
February 5th 2021


277 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

At first listen this was absolutely amazing, as expected.

RadioSuicide
February 5th 2021


1717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

don't think I've ever read a review I agreed with more in 11 years on this site, killer job dude. Really bummed about how they did our boys Sunglasses and Athens (they even took the single version of Athens off Spotify...cucks), but overall I tried to treat this like I hadn't been waiting well over a year for it, and hell, even by that marker i don't remotely see this as a failure. people unfamiliar with the singles and bootlegs will definitely enjoy the piss out of this, if it's their bag.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


44707 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

was the single Athens ever on spotify? don't think we had it in Australia anyway. but yeah they should get that back on, it's pretty interesting to compare the lyrical changes imo

Sinternet
February 5th 2021


23958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

rip sunglasses but at least we got opus

Digging: Crowning - Survival?/?Sickness

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


44707 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

opus slaps but where tf basketball shoes at

GhandhiLion
February 5th 2021


10479 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Why would they do such a thing. Where can I find the singles now.?

Digging: Joe Harriott & Amancio D'Silva Quartet - Hum Dono

RadioSuicide
February 5th 2021


1717 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah, it was here in the States at least. never understood regional restrictions for online services like spotify and netflix, but there are some handy apps available that let you circumvent them

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2021


12411 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

man if only they had any original ideas on this one

Digging: Owls Woods Graves - Citizenship of the Abyss

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


44707 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7 | Sound Off

phero be like 'post-punk that's not Public Strain? more like bad-bad'

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2021


3600 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Hell yes, great review, agreed on all points. I'm thinking I may ever so slightly actually prefer this version of Athens, but.

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2021


12411 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

no no row more like post-2010 post punk that's not Public Strain

DavidYowi
February 5th 2021


429 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Damn RYM and AOTY are going rabid over this. It’ll be interesting to see how Sput will differ from those sites

AmericanFlagAsh
February 5th 2021


10082 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This rating?!?!?

Digging: The Weather Station - Ignorance

AmericanFlagAsh
February 5th 2021


10082 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Anyway this is fucking stunning

keaton_86
February 5th 2021


125 Comments


I thought it was alright. Its like black midi but more boring and somehow more pretentious

AmericanFlagAsh
February 5th 2021


10082 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I enjoy this way more than black midi

Ryus
February 5th 2021


22915 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

so this is the new meme post punk band huh

Digging: Danny L Harle - Harlecore

Cygnatti
February 5th 2021


34589 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

new weezer is honestly like better than this

Digging: DJ Assault - Jungle Love

Ryus
February 5th 2021


22915 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

this is so lifeless lol



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