Attack Attack Records (label)
23 August 2019 (released)
29 August 2019
From Here is New Model Army’s 15th album in almost 40 years. Those who have followed the band for much of this time will know that the corner stone is founding member, lead singer and main lyricist Justin Sullivan. Band members have come and gone and once a three piece, they have grown over the years into a five piece with recent album releases cementing the current line-up that has been together now for four albums. Sullivan however remains the one constant.
The music feels a natural progression to a creative turn they took when they recorded and released Between Dog and Wolf in 2013. For this release, they travelled to the far away northern Norwegian island of Giske where Ocean Sound Recordings occupy a truly remarkable location for making music, and the beauty and bleakness of the location has, to one degree or another, helped shape the ambience that threads through the album.
There is nothing radically new here as such. The familiar pounding rhythms and prominent bass lines (albeit of a different style to their earlier days with Ceri Monger delivering those responsibilities), underpin Sullivan’s yearning and at times portentous lyrics that explore the states of tension and contradiction that exist within nature and humanity. But that’s not a criticism. The songs are as infectious as ever and listened collectively NMA have succeeded in making a coherent, engaging and relevant album.
They have always denied being a political band, but their lyrics often contain reference to contemporaneous issues, even if only metaphorically. On this release, it is hard not to read between the lines and pick out those burning issues that are so pertinent to many of us in these challenging political times. Time and again NMA have insisted that the music comes first, but what adds to this is Sullivan’s ability to craft an engaging and passionate lyric, often with a strong chorus that comes in to its own when performed live. They’re not a protest band, but they inspire in their listeners the desire to rise up in one way or another.
As suggested, there are common themes that have been there to some degree across most albums, albeit more so in the last few album releases. Opener Passing Through, as the title suggests, reflects on life and how what we think we know and possess passes, with the song building to a crescendo that suggests a striving to understand the balance between wonder and tragedy. The following three tracks will no doubt make a show in the live setlist when the band hit the road this Autumn. Driving rhythms and catchy melodies abound and make for a strong first half with the third track, The Weather, a definite highlight with its soaring outro.
The second half of the album begins a little less urgent. Where I Am is not quite a filler but still rather paint-by-numbers. But then the mood shifts and turns with the following tracks, with subtle complexities and a growing restlessness leading to the penultimate track Sunset lamenting our primal striving to connect with beauty; followed by the final eponymous track, From Here, which in many ways sums up the underlying message of the album. The soft piano interlude sounds as if it were recorded with the studio door open as the wintery winds and soft sounds of wildlife dreamily carry the listener away from the hot August sunshine to colder northern shores before pounding toms usher in a rebuke to man’s pride and ‘stupidity’.
From Here is a strong collective album and one that suggests that this cohesive five piece continue on an exciting creative journey together. The European tour starts this Autumn and is one not to be missed.