‘I can never imagine them being in a studio and someone having to say “One more take, this time with feeling”‘ – Niall McGuirk on New Model Army‘s recently released album Between Dog And Wolf.
New Model Army played a huge part in my life. There, I’ve said it. When Conflict had their Only Stupid Bastards Sign To EMI t-shirt I was devastated. Here was my band, New Model Army: A band I had almost befriended, a band I had bought every record by, believed in, and now they’d jumped ship to the other side. I was 18, the miners had lost their strike, our victories were in songs and little else. We were the independents fighting against the sharks of the major labels. NMA went with the sharks, appeared on Top Of The Pops and then Conflict had the t-shirt…
Of course it is never that easy. The mist of time has helped me realise that. I left school and found myself a job. I was working for the man railing against those who wanted to be the man. But we travelled different roads and I wished them well. The way I see it, we are travelling through this life on a journey. What we do with our time and how we reach the end is the direction we take. In the 1980′s when a band signed to a major record label they decided to go on the motorway. Me? I’ve always preferred the bypassed villages. The secondary roads are more interesting.
I’ve seen New Model Army quite a few times live. I was a regular in the early days with arms flapping as the clog travellers who attended their gigs were the family that I was an outsider to. I have great memories of gigs in Liverpool, Bradford, London and Dublin that reached a crescendo when the band hit the stage. I interviewed them for my zine in 1984 and they have never been anything but nice. I questioned their wisdom of finding an employer for their music.
I guess after this time I bear no grudges, but for a while I questioned. It is no harm to question, Justin Sullivan has been doing so since he was speaking as Slade The Leveller and has always been nothing but emotional in his words and music. I can’t believe it is thirty years since their first record. It is that mist of time we can’t prevent from moving. What we do with it is important though.
I’ve written tons of reviews since my first attempt at getting someone to listen to a Crass record. I have spoken of the virtues of many, many bands but New Model Army have always been up there for me. There’s no other way of saying this but I LOVE NEW MODEL ARMY. Their songs are laden down with emotion and sung with such feeling. I can never imagine them being in a studio and someone having to say “One more take, this time with feeling”. There is an intensity to everything they do and the latest record is no different. The opening track of Horsemen must have Justin exhausted every time he sings it.
The other 13 tracks are no less intense. There is a haunting eeriness to their sound. The modern day Sherlock Holmes, chasing down the Hound Of the Baskervilles on the moors, would have to listen to NMA. When the haunting rhythmic percussion kicks in during Ghosts or Did You Make It Safe you can almost feel the fog on those moors. Tracks like Lean Back and Fall and I Need More Time have such a haunting sound the season of Halloween seems the perfect time for them.