New Model Army - Eight (Attack, Attack)
NMA's eighth studio outing, called "Eight" for obvious reasons, is a further example of the band's maturity. It is a very reflective, almost introspective, album, contrasting strongly with their earlier angry output. That's not to say they've lost their passion or their power. Quite the contrary, the opening track 'Flying Through the Smoke' rocks as hard as anything they've done before. But, it's the lyrical content that's very different. It's almost the exact opposite of 'Notice Me' from their first album. No longer are they the fans wanting to be onstage, now they are the seasoned performers trying to puzzle out the motives of the audience.
'You Weren't There' is a slow, sardonic swipe at the unreality of a world defined by CNN rather than experience, while 'Orange Tree Roads' exhibits a Justin Sullivan with a sense of place in the world, no longer the young punk feeling trapped. 'Someone Like Jesus' sees Justin doing a passable impression of Leonard Cohen, not just in the singing, but also in the strong religious imagery, given a 'Hallelujah'-esque twist.
'Stranger' is classic NMA, not quite 3 chords and the truth, more powerchords and doubts. 'R&R' is a rocking number, a two-fingered salute to the things that are supposed to be important in the modern world, summed up in the chorus line, "Wake me in a thousand years". The raw, folky sound of 'Snelsmore Wood' echoes "Thunder and Consolation" and it really makes one yearn for the scream of Ed Alleyne's custom violin. 'Paekakariki Beach' is the kind of slow, emotive song Justin has always done well, guaranteed to inspire much arm-waving in a live setting. 'Leeds Road 3am' is almost a spoken word piece, as close to rap as they'll will ever get, while 'Wixam' has a strong Wild West feel, with tribal style percussion and the lonesome whine of a harmonica. Finally, 'Wipeout' wraps things up on high note, with lyrics about nothing more than a trip to the sea.
It seems that, in the days of electronica and boy-bands, New Model Army are no longer relevant, but who gives a fuck. They sound as good as they ever did, be one of the select few.
by Donnacha DeLong