‘Look at what we did together / BC,NR friends forever’ chime Black Country, New Road on the animated, cheerful chorus of Up Song, the opening track of their third album, Live At Bush Hall. After their former frontman, Isaac Wood left the band early last year, the band decided to push forward – pressing ahead with festival commitments, ditching the idea of a frontperson entirely, rebranding and now working as a collective. The last year has seen the six-piece tour a collection of entirely new tracks, playing some of the world’s biggest, most iconic festivals with only new material, and as the songs were debuted this way – the band decided it would only be right to present the tracks in the same style, recorded with an audience, with the album releasing this Friday, 24th March via Ninja Tune.
The Boy allows keyboardist May Kershaw to take to vocals for the first time. Split into several identified chapters (The Robin, The Mole, and The Deer), the song opens with a sequence of abstract violin before the delicate flute work of Lewis Evans delicately rises, framing Kershaw’s voice effortlessly. Both operatic and tender, The Boy allows Kershaw’s intimate vocals to shine.
Bassist Tyler Hide comes back in for I Won’t Always Love You, which is both heartbreaking and fragile. The track addresses the painful realities of loving someone, and them not loving you back, opening with Hyde struggling to tell someone, ‘I will always love you, and / I will always want you, even’ before the flow of the third verse accommodates more, as its contrasting lyrics ‘I won’t always love you, and / I won’t always want you’ feel natural.
Across The Pond Friend introduces third vocalist, saxophonist Lewis Evans, to the microphone. Allowing the drums of Charlie Wayne to step to the forefront, the emphatic lyrics of Evans allow us to look into his dreams as he fantasises about his ‘across the pond friend’ coming back to him, allowing him to embrace them once more.
Returning to the emotional crescendos that Black Country, New Road, have become synonymous with, Laughing Song allows the band to reach new melodramatic heights with its expansive nature. High-impact drums, accordion and folk elements bind around Tyler’s vocals once more as they almost break in emotion. Heartbreakingly vulnerable once again, the track’s lyrics that ponder ‘What does it say when I have accepted that no one else will make me laugh like that – ever again?’ reign relatable and honest.
The changes undergone by the band are not something mentioned explicitly within Live At Bush Hall, but as The Wrong Trousers sees Evans take centre stage once more – the track unfolds to display the fallout of a tragic break-up, and Evans’ uneasiness around accepting the situation. Its lyrics see Lewis announce that they ‘made something to be proud of’ before the track switches to become a duet between himself and Tyler Hyde. A subtle nod to their loss of Isaac Wood, ‘The Wrong Trousers’ is certain to get the love it deserves from avid Black Country, New Road fans.
Turbines / Pigs is alike nothing that the band have ever done before. Beginning with May Kershaw alone on her grand piano, before the rest of the band gradually join her to produce a thunderous wall of sound. It’s personal and emotive and could see fans shed a tear, as Kershaw repeatedly sings, ‘Don’t waste your pearls on me / I’m only a pig’, rewording the phrase ‘pearls before swines’ which means to offer something valuable to someone who can’t comprehend its worth.
Concluding with the reprised version of ‘Up Song’, allowing the band to reconfirm that they are not going anywhere, any time soon. A sombre yet more dramatic version of its former self, the reprise is a perfect note to conclude Live At Bush Hall.
Live At Bush Hall allows Black Country, New Road to sound completely like the band that we know and love, whilst also, somehow, managing to sound nothing like the band they once were. This reintroduction to the band will only confirm to fans what they already know; Black Country, New Road are as defiant as ever.