Tuesday, 15 May 2012

These New Puritans - Hidden

These New Puritans - Hidden
Released on Domino, 18/01/10
 A debut album is easy when your ego has been tickled by premature adoration and hype, but there has been an alarming increase in deplorable plaid-clad boys and girls from the indie factory whose second albums have just been churned out jaded versions of the debut.

‘Hidden’ the secondary album from These New Puritans’ is, thankfully, an exception to this recent stupor of mediocrity.

“I’ve been writing a lot of music for the bassoon” frontman Jack Barnett in a 2008 interview shortly after the release of These New Puritans critically acclaimed debut ‘Beat Pyramid’, who further went on to extort than the bands new material sounded like “dancehall meets Steve Reich” Claims that would of undoubtedly evoked a few sniggers from their contemporaries – here comes another vapid indie band whose ideas outstrip their ability. But there was enough innovation on ‘Beat Pyramid’ that suggested that these mystical sound engineers knew what they were doing.

Unlike most artists, the band decided to not rejoice in their well-deserved success of their debut, and instead disappeared into the studio to play with brass instruments and six-foot Taiko drums. After a year of obscure and perplexing posts on their official website, such as a choir of primary school children and a melon being smashed up with a hammer, it was obvious that something innovative and quite fantastic was going on in the alternative music scene. Finally, in the last week of 2009, the ambitious ‘We Want War’ was released.

‘We Want War’ is a triumph itself, an aural accumulation that is as scary and gratifying as it is menacingly euphoric.  The songs’ Portishead-esque sub-heavy beats, droned bassoon, synthesised horns and sampled sound of a sword being sharpened is somewhat reminiscent of the witchier material of Liars and truly requires the listener’s full attention. Impressive, considering the un-edited cut is over seven minutes long and doesn’t even have a bloody chorus.

The impressive heavy drum and brass duet is an indubitably apparent overtone throughout the album, and is explicitly featured in the track ‘Three Thousand’ where Jack Barnett soulfully delivers the lyric “Three thousand thoughts in our minds”, and indeed, These New Puritans’ sonic patchwork of an album contains more musical ideas than most established bands have in their entire careers.

Another highlight from the album is the amply named ‘Attack Music’ the name and energy of which conjures up a certain rebellious punk-like attitude. But instead of three cord bass riffs and a coked-up frontman, ‘Attack Music’ features “a melon with cream crackers attached stuck by a hammer to simulate the sound of a human head being smashed.” Genius.

‘Hidden’ is a record that truly set the barrier for alternative music this decade, a record of breathtaking theoretical scope that was worthy of being named NME’s top album of 2010. These New Puritans are not a band set to please you, but they more than deserve your attention. 

Critical Analysis

When reviewing the album ‘Hidden’ by ‘These New Puritans’, an important factor I took into consideration was the target audience for my review. As the album is from a relatively unknown band it makes sense that it would be unlikely for my review to be featured in a mainstream magazine. According to theorists, “Chart music is usually the only kind of music mentioned in  mainstream non-music orientated press”, whereas mainstream music orientated magazines “tend to concentrate on a wider spectrum of music, although there are subtle limitations to the music that will be discussed” and anti-mainstream music will only be mentioned in “extremely specific music publications”. (Jones, S. 2002)
Judging by the genre and popularity of the album I reviewed I think that either a mainstream music magazine, specifically one like NME that mainly concentrates on ‘indie’ music, rather than a magazine like Kerrang! whose speciality is rock music, or a specific music publication, such as Artrocker, that caters for underground ‘alternative’ music.
More attributes of my review that make it suitable for a music orientated magazine, whether it be mainstream or not, is the length of my review. My review is nearly 500 words which, according to Jones, S. 2002, is normal for a downpage review in a music specific publication, whereas, an album review in a non-music specific publication is usually less than a paragraph, and in some cases won’t exceed a sentence (Jones, S. 2002)

Jones, S (2002). Pop Music and the Press. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 186.

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