Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There: A Review

In the song “Science Fair” off of their debut album For the First Time (2021), Black Country, New Road (BC,NR) cheekily referred to themselves as “the world’s second-best Slint tribute act.” And they weren’t wrong at the time—For the First Time features long, post-rock tracks reminiscent of Slint’s seminal work Spiderland, combined with a saxophone-driven, jazzy atmosphere that gave it an artsy, klezmer-inspired edge. In terms of artistic outlook, there were also clear similarities with the other albums released in 2021 by the “Windmill” collective of Slint-influenced post-punk bands that BC,NR belonged to, especially Cavalcade by black midi and Squid’s Bright Green Field.

Within a year of releasing For the First Time, BC,NR were already at work towards a sophomore album. In fact, the songwriting process for the album had already begun before the release of For the first time, beginning during the winter of 2020-2021 while the band members were under COVID lockdowns. Following a tour in June 2021 to test out the new material, the songs were recorded later in the summer over the course of two weeks. The first single in support of the new album, “Chaos Space Marine,” was released on October 12, 2021, followed by three more singles over the next three months (“Bread Song,” “Concorde,” and “Snow Globes”). As the release date for the album approached, hype was building up, and certainly the singles helped bolster the anticipation.

The hype bubble eventually burst with the album’s release on February 4, 2022. Titled Ants From Up There, the album provides a fresh musical perspective that somewhat deviates from the jazzy Slint impressions presented on For the First Time, instead opting for an approach informed by chamber pop and indie rock. Listening to the album, it’s clear that BC,NR are now closer to being the world’s second-best Arcade Fire tribute act. There’s still a substantial post-rock flair to the musicespecially towards the end of the albumbut this time coming from Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with many moments throughout the album being reminiscent of their album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. Putting together all of these musical inspirationsand compounding to them with some features of their ownBC,NR have created a musical triumph, a work that consistently entertains and wows the listener throughout its almost hour-long run-time. All that growing excitement was, without a doubt, worth it.

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