Black Country, New Road - Ants From Up There
Feb 7, 2022
First 10 of the decade!

Hype isn't something that I let get to me... ever. I know how it looks; yet another AOTY user slapping this highly anticipated art rock album with a 100 less than a week since its release. How original! But seriously, I never let hype take over for anything. I rarely ever get truly hyped for new music releases. I may be interested, sure, but until I actually listen to the actual music I'm not going to have elevated expectations. But it was difficult not to be at least somewhat hyped for this album. As someone who avoided the singles so I could go into this blind, seeing so many other avid music listeners talking this project up for months, it was hard not to think that surely there must be something interesting here. After all, this is BCNR we're talking about; the band who released one of the most striking albums of last year. I mean, it seems it's every week that you see this level of hype for a new pop or hip hop album, sometimes the odd indie rock or generic post-punk record, but those you learn to ignore after a while. This is BCNR, who have given no reason to doubt them but all the reason to expect the best from them. And if those more in the know than I are saying that it has potential to be an incredible album, you can't help but become even more curious than you otherwise would have been.

And so, as soon as I was able, I went ahead and pushed play. And... well...

"So I'm leaving this body
And I'm nevеr coming home again, yeah
I'll bury the axе here
Between the window and the kingdom of men
Oh, I'm becoming a worm now
And I'm looking for a place to live"

...C'mon, if you know me, you already know that I live for abstract lyrics like these - lyrics that paint a vivid image, describing an ambiguous feeling in a way that only the person singing can, that shows a deep, personal inner-understanding of the poet themselves. And that's exactly what Isaac Wood is; a poet. He is, without a doubt, one of the best poets working in modern rock- hell, in current music in general. That said, it is a shame to see him leave the band so soon in their career, but of course I wish him the best in life, whatever it is he decides to do from here, whether it's retire from music altogether or continue elsewhere. Obviously his post made it seem like the stress of touring and working in a band was making it difficult for him mentally. I do hope that maybe in the future he'll come out with a solo album or two, even if it's just a simple acoustic folk album focusing on his lyrics, 'cause I'd most definitely be sucking that up... but of course, that just my own selfishness talking. Wherever he goes next in life, I wish him the best of luck.

Anyway, back to the music... y'all already know me. This is the kind of music I suck up. The lyrics are one side that I adore and certainly add an extra layer to the music making it that much more appealing, but goddamn, this powerful, artsy post-rock is exactly the kind of music that I love. Really, this album just ticks all the right boxes to make me fall head over heels for it. Even though on first listen I was a little taken aback by how light the Intro was, making me a little worried that this may not be the album for me, by the time I reached the heavenly climax of Chaos Space Marine I already knew I was in for something truly special. And that just kept going and going, through the slower tracks in the middle like the clear fan favourite Concorde, the slow-burn that is Bread Song, the overlooked Good Will Hunting which I would argue is by far the catchiest song on the entire record (which, to be fair, the album as a whole isn't going for "catchy" so I can somewhat understand most not getting into it thanks to its slow nature, but the lyrics are still incredible), and Haldern which always feels so much shorter than it actually is. Which leads us right into the last leg of the album, and what is by far the main attraction. These last three tracks after the brief interlude that is Mark's Theme are some of the most insane songs in BCNR's discography, and some of the best songs of the decade by far. Where He Inserted The Blade is another slow-burner, building up to a phenomenal climax and holding some of the best lyrics on the whole album. The melodies on this song and the instrumentation truly make it something special. Then we get Snow Globes, a more instrumentally-driven song that devolves into utter insanity in the latter half, with the drums overriding everything in the last leg in a way that I can see some people complaining about mixing issues but feels so intentional and impactful. And then we get the closer, the twelve minute Basketball Shoes. Now, admittedly, this song has always felt a little TOO slow for me. Even as someone who adores long songs that gradually build up into incredible crescendos (Swans are one of my favourite bands after all), but I do feel like a good minute could have been cut from the intro. I don't know if it's just me, but I can hear basically nothing from that first minute, and it usually results in me sitting there waiting for the actual song to kick in. But once Isaac comes in, it's hard not to be entranced by his personal lyrics, taking in all he has to say, as we build into one of the most important moments of the whole album. The entire last three or four minutes of this song are perhaps the best moments of their discography so far. It's just filled with so much phenomenal musicianship and emotional vocals that you can't help but become enthralled.

Yeah, I probably went a little overboard with that paragraph just talking about the tracks, but I hope my love for this record is coming through. Although there are moments that I'm not as keen on as others, the overall experience is one of the best I've had with new music in a long while, and one of the best in music full-stop. You'll rarely catch me giving 10s to recently released records as I believe that an album has to be given time to show its effect on music history or just on the listener themselves, but every second of every day that this has released, I've done nothing but think of it, and when I'm listening, I'm loving the shit out of it.

Now, who knows where the band will go from here? Obviously the rest of the band aren't just going to give up without Isaac, but I am very interested to see where they'll go from here. Whether or not they retire the BCNR name and reform as a new band (similar to Joy Division/New Order); if they'll get another vocalist or stick to being an instrumental band - the former of which would become a problem if they try to get someone to imitate Isaac's voice, or worse, try and get them to perform his songs which have always been very personal; and simply, where will they take their music from here. Maybe it's just the fact that this is Isaac's final album with the band, but there is a sense of finality all throughout. This is one of those albums where most, if not all of the songs feel like album closers themselves, and the whole project taken together feels like a final statement of its own. And that isn't even solely in reference to Isaac's contributions, because you can hear it clearly in the instrumentation as well. So that begs the question; What are they going to do from here, musically? Will they continue with this same sort of art rock? Will they go heavier? Will they go lighter? Will they maybe go full pop, or even full avant-garde metal? Only the future will tell, and I'm all here for it.

Snow Globes was apparently based on a biblical story in which a man who doubts the power of God is subjected to divine punishment, with his wife eventually praying for mercy, insiting that her husband (Henry) is aware of God's might. This obviously ties back in with Isaac's final desperate plea for Concorde's love. To me, the overly loud drums represent both the wrath of God and the insignifigance of Isaac's pleas, as Concorde has already made up her mind numeorus times that she doesn't care much for him. After that, we transition into a dream sequence in Baskteball Shoes, in which Isaac is in denial, believing that he and Concorde have the ideal life together before waking up to find that it was all a dream, and begging to be able to forget her and move on.

An absolutely brilliant record.
Fantastic review man, and as much as I adore basketball shoes I do agree the intro is maybe a tad too quiet to work on speakers unless you're really in the mood for involved listening. My good headphones worked fine though and I love drifting along to the delicate guitar before the rest of the band come in.
Fantastic review - absolutely love the respect for Isaac Wood and the credit you’ve given his lyricism :)
@ThomasGuy Man, the themes in the lyrics are exceptional, and the musicianship being able to relate to Isaac's poetry is awe-inspiring. Truly an incredible band and album.

@UrsusMaritimus Thanks man! And yes, I still think Basketball Shoes is incredible regardless, but I'll definitely need to give it a few much more focused listens and hopefully have the whole thing, intro and all, fully click with me.

@ClayDJs03 Thank you! Isaac is such a brilliant lyricist who definitely stands as one of the best out there currently imo. He deserves all the respect he can get.
Fantastic review!
@reptilia0000 Thank you!
Very well written review! AFUT first 100 of the decade gang
@21stcenturyschi First 100 of the decade gang rise up! And thanks!
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More Reviews by JustSomeGuy
Black Country, New Road - Live at Bush Hall
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