The eighties revival, eh? Wouldn't it be nice if once, just one, one
of these bloody revival focussed on the bands that really mattered.
While everyone fusses about the return of Boy George, and Pete
Waterman sells more records than is even close to moral, a new CD is
released by one of the best bands that god-forsaken decade release a
CD, and nobody notices.
So, NMA in '99, it's a while since we've heard from them, what have
they got to offer at this stage? Quite a lot, as it happens. Sure
they're older, there's a little less of the youthful righteous
indignation, but they have managed to mature, maybe even mellow a bit,
without selling out.
"Strange Brotherhood" starts off with a bit of atmospherics, kind of
Dead Can Dancey, before kicking in with the vintage NMA of 'Wonderful
Way to Go'. Elsewhere, like on 'Whites of their Eyes', they've
broadened their sound. On 'Wonderful..' Justin growls like Tom Waits
after a hard night, back by some harmonica straight from lonesome dirt
tracks in the Wild West.
Songs like 'Aimless Desire' and the love-song 'Queen of my Heart'
could be termed ballads, if they didn't have the intense, excluded
sound of almost everything the band have ever recorded. Then there's
the Chumbawamba-esque horn section on 'Gigabyte Wars' and the wash of
synths on 'Killing'.
It's fairly obvious just from the song-titles that they have lost none
of their lyrical edge. They're still anti-war, anti-conformist and
anti-small town attitudes, and they still want people to know it.
New Model Army have grown, rather than changed, and, when you think
about it, "Vengeance" was a long time ago (15 years!). And who the
fuck would be happy if they'd just re-recorded "Ghost of Cain" or
"Impurity". They've matured and grown musically and have deftly
avoided getting stale. Slade the Leveller may be long gone, but NMA
still have a lot to offer.
by Donnacha DeLong