Black Country, New Road
Live at Bush Hall


4.5
superb

Review

by Odal CONTRIBUTOR (43 Reviews)
March 24th, 2023 | 38 replies


Release Date: 03/24/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Easing any fears that the band's best years are already behind them, Live at Bush Hall is a bold and adventurous performance that shows Black Country, New Road have plenty more to offer.

Black Country, New Road don’t make things easy, do they? Since bursting onto the scene with 2019’s explosive “Sunglasses,” the band have garnered much acclaim and derision for seemingly being, depending on who you asked, the Good or Bad Ending of whatever the hell butterfly effect has rippled from David Bowie endorsing Arcade Fire all those years ago. For the First Time was a bold, if uneven, debut that showed equal amounts of promise as it did recursive wank as the band put forth a collection of songs that sounded like they were poptimistic versions of Godspeed! You Black Emperor. 2022’s Ants From Up There was then a quantum leap forward for the band as they sanded some of the edges -emphasis on some, as the album’s climax is about a nocturnal emissions tribute for Charli XCX- to make way for a far more palatable and mature sense of structure that seemed destined to canonize the band as the Next Big Thing. But, there was a twist: the band’s charismatic frontman called it quits due to mental health issues right before the album released and the band had to cancel their victory lap tour to regroup and reassess how to chart a path forward, if a path were to be charted forward under the moniker at all. After taking a few months off to hastily write a new collection of songs to have something, anything else to play live than the contributions from Wood out of respect for his departure, the new iteration of the band would tour to workshop their new sound and assure fans that they are not going anywhere.

All this to say, it should come as no surprise that merely saying “Live at Bush Hall is a live album by Black Country, New Road” buries the lede quite a bit. A collection of completely new material performed over three nights that the band itself has professed probably won’t make their next proper studio album, it’s both an unconventional victory lap on the winding path their career has taken so far and a glimpse at what to (maybe) expect going forward. The resulting performance likely won’t convert any who insist the band’s vaudevillian antics are trite and recursive, but should ease those who have hopped aboard the train of dried out soup cans and sadsack saxophones that the coffin should not be closed on the band just yet.

So then, Live at Bush Hall can really be judged on two terms: as a performance, and as an album. As a performance, it is an undeniable triumph. As an album, it’s really damn good. The band presses forward with three members switching off primary vocal duties -two of which are good, but all three of which adding enough variety to keep the performance side of things interesting- and choosing to continue charting new territory. “Up Song” is the band’s catchiest and punkiest song to date, having the singalong “Look at what we did together/B-C-N-R friends forever!” anchor down what will surely be a live staple for years to come. “The Boy” and “I Won’t Always Love You” charter theatrical territory that the band may have skimmed in the past, but making them center focus with movements -literally spoken out loud in the former- with a lack of subtlety that is surprisingly refreshing for a band that could maybe be accused of obfuscating and longwinded in the past.

That’s not to say that the band doesn’t attempt to iterate on the past elsewhere. “Turbines/Pigs” is the best song here and crescendos with a tidal wave of arpeggios that sound eerily similar to “Basketball Shoes”, but still carving out its own space in the band’s mythos by sounding more tectonic. “Dancers” finds vocalist Tyler Hyde doing the best to ape her departed bandmate by lamenting how boring the ballet can be over one of the band’s most crushing and heaviest performances to date, satiating the appetite for more traditional BCNR faire, if such a thing can exist on the band’s cramped timeline.

The album’s lone albatross really hangs on vocalist Lewis Evans, whose performances sound more like a kid given vocal duties of opportunity obligations in a school musical than someone you’d like to see step into Isaac Wood’s shoes, but the live nature of the album works in his favor. His contributions can more or less be played off as interesting experiments rather than focal points. Hell, “Across the Pond Friend” is so infectious that it sounds like the band lovingly and knowingly rallying around his strained and waning vocals, adding to the themes of friendship and camaraderie that are so omnipresent. The less said about “The Wrong Trousers,” the better.

Live at Bush Hall will surely draw more lines in the sand for a band that already has done so much of that, but it’s a weird hybrid performance/album that ultimately succeeds despite the monumental challenges it has going against it. The few blemishes that do show can ultimately be ignored due to the energetic performance and unique placement in what will surely be one helluva History section on Wikipedia. If this is what Black Country, New Road can cook up as mostly throwaways in a few short months, than the future may yet be just as bright as that captivating, if uneven, first chapter.

“B-C-N-R, friends forever” indeed.



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user ratings (79)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Odal
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2023


1711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This thing absolutely rules

tectactoe
March 24th 2023


7156 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yes yes, great album. Though my least favorite thing about live albums is that one knob who wants to shout "Woooooo!" from the crowd whenever a song's tempo starts to pick up midway through.

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2023


1711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol I have found myself getting more and more annoyed when people do that when I go to shows, but it's whatever. They did an admirable job of cutting out as much as they could of that on the streaming release of that. The Youtube version has a lot more, but the lovely visual components help smooth that annoyance over

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2023


59481 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

review is good / most of the way through this and Turbines is the only song so far I feel remotely inclined to visit (and even then, the climax ain't quite it). band hit the overstocked thrift store for glum theatre kids dealing with crippling imposter syndrome way hard



guess that sees em slide from the top of the scene to somewhere around Caroline -level. meh

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2023


1711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Bummer the climax didn't hit as hard for you as it did for me, I was honestly floored the first time I heard it.

GhandhiLion
March 24th 2023


17630 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

I remember when I went to see GYBE and someone started cheering in the middle of BBF3. Someone else shouted "It's not finished yet dickhead"

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2023


59481 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

hmm Dancers is half good and half desperately needs either a proper mix or a different vocalist

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2023


1711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The band has strongly hinted that, at the very least, Turbines and Dancers will likely be on the next LP in some form. There are definitely some edges to sand down, but again I'd chalk it up to live performance quirks that ultimately work for me. I'm obviously tilting heavily in this band's favor though lol

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2023


1574 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Looking forward to checking this out. Nice write per usual, Odal!

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2023


1711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks!



Hopefully you dig it as much as I did

Odal
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2023


1711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, there's a lot around this release that makes it harder to judge than most albums, but if you're any bit a fan of BCNR it's worth checking out. If nothing else, you can tell the band themselves are having a blast

zaruyache
March 25th 2023


27214 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this is great on first listen, probably enjoy it more than I do either of the other albums.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2023


47485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

excellent writeup, really nice job

theBoneyKing
March 25th 2023


24234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Didn’t really vibe with this on first go, feel like it leans way too hard on their twee side. Will give it a fair few more tries but it’s certainly nowhere near AFUT tier.

zakalwe
March 25th 2023


38516 Comments


That opening few seconds would definitely get a heckle from me, two fingers and a walk out the door.

ReefaJones
March 25th 2023


3592 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Listen to Absent Lovers: Live in Montreal 1984 by King Crimson instead guys. Trust me

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2023


47485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

No

GhandhiLion
March 25th 2023


17630 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Yazzoo

ReefaJones
March 25th 2023


3592 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"No"



Do it now ヽ(ಠ_ಠ) ノ

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2023


47485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2 | Sound Off

i am under 35, don't moonlight in a nu-jazz group fronted by a dude named Donovan who wears glasses he doesn't need, and prefer guitar sounds to stay away from the frequency only dogs can hear, so i will not be listening to king crimson today thank you



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