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New Model Army
High
Attack Attack Records
www.newmodelarmy.org


While it's not without merit, High marks a new low in the long history of Welsh anthem rock. Justin Sullivan's searing prose and bitter vocals are still intact, but the music has lost much of its steam. There's a weird Pearl Jam 70's rock vibe going on that supplants the usual folk-punk. We'll be kind - it's dark and slow enough to count it as a nod to The Doors.

Often touching on Biblical matters, Sullivan's parables, delivery, inflections and twisted lyrics - "I need an amnesiac priest" - increasingly resemble Nick Cave. On pieces like the title track he's developed a slight warm warble when the phrase turns a corner. The approach is a dragged-tempo invoking the lazy country rock of The Band. Peter Nelson offers rambling bass walkups which, while respectable, feel like they want to support happier material.

The highlight "One of the Chosen" takes a tribal, though not savage, stance with a caravan bass groove and gothically ethereal guitar scrubbing. The semi-acoustic "Into The Wind" hearkens more to the troubadour tradition we've come to expect from Sullivan's solo work. The inclusion of ragged electric guitar is actually a bit intrusive, but a gentle piano accent tempers the offense. "Dawn" has the sort of stiff silliness of David Byrne once-removed.

Missing is the soaring release of "White Coats.". The builds never quite draw you in like "Green & Grey." The catchy singalongs like "Stupid Questions" are absent. High is alright, but for such desperate times its awfully mild.

-Ewan Wadharmi

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