Black Country, New Road are about as far away from being a conventional band as you’re probably going to find. Everything they create as one unit is outside of the box. Their unique way of thinking leads to extraordinary results; the type of outcomes which you would be simply impossible to land upon if safely sat behind the confinements of ordinary thought. However, their barrier-breaking methods from time to time can create disjointedness throughout their debut record, For The First Time.
The seven-piece band includes three classically trained musicians, all of who have a flare that gives each track on the record a sense of unpredictability, and nothing is out of bounds when Black Country, New Road are involved. Their first full-length effort is only six-tracks long but still manages to notch up a running time of over 40-minutes and arrives as an outlier for the playlist generation.
There are no obvious singles on the album, and ‘Track X’ is the shortest effort on the record at four-minutes and 45 seconds. Nowadays, we are regularly told about how the album format is dead in the water, and it’s all about creating tracks for playlists and bitesize moments of intake. However, the message seems to have been lost on the way to Black Country, New Road as they have offered up a piece of music designed to be listened to in its entirety from start to finish. The only issue is that with each track clocking in at such lengthy runtimes, there needs to be more done to keep the listener’s attention throughout the album and, on more than one occasion, it feels as though these undoubtedly grandiose tracks could do with being a minute or two shorter.
There’s no uncertainty that Black Country, New Road are exquisitely talented musicians, and this artistry leads to delectable moments across the record. ‘Instrumental’ opens the record in a captivating fashion and allows the seven-piece to flex their muscles in an enthralling way. Throughout the album, there is a real vibrancy that shines especially on the eight-minute finale, ‘Opus’, which then descends to an eerieness before returning to life for a powerful ending. This closer encapsulates the very best of the band.
If one were to pick holes, an area that lets the group down a few times on the album is singer Isaac Wood’s lyricism. In truth, the choice of words doesn’t seem to be particularly well thought out and feel, sat times, more like on the spot musings, a factor which occasionally descends into bizarre half-baked monologues. Take the section from ‘Sunglasses’, for example, “Mother is juicing watermelons on the breakfast island, And with frail hands she grips the NutriBullet, And the bite of its blades reminds me of a future, That I am in no way part of.”
Throughout the record, Wood’s spoken word sections are a mixed bag, with ‘Sunglasses’ operating as an occasion when they miss the spot, but that’s not always the case. The opening verse of ‘Athens, France’ is a different story as thee singer gets perfectly across his dry wit. He anxiously sings, “She flies to Paris, France, I come down in her childhood bed, She tries to fuck me, I pretend that I’m asleep instead, She loves pop culture, She has ‘thank u, next’ stuck in her head, The cursed vultures give me sourdough, my daily bread.”
Overall, Black Country, New Road have delivered a debut effort that no other band in the country would dare to attempt. Whilst it has his shortcomings, For The First Time hits the spot more times than it misses the board. The seven-pieces vast craftsmanship is the one stand out feature from the record and is the glue that somehow manages to keep this eclectic mix of sounds together. It’s far from a perfect debut album, but it’s a fascinating record that shows that Black Country, New Road are an innovative motley crew with a fresh blend of sounds in their arsenal.