Hi guys, it’s Sean. So now I’m back for my first gig review for The Moshville Times since the Finntroll, Tyr and Skalmold gig after Mosh offering me the chance to do some more writing for the fanzine. I’m still playing around with my writing formats as you may have seen from my album reviews (if they’ve been posted yet). So far I have agreed with Mosh to do a variety of different album reviews as well as gig reviews (some the same as Mosh like Amon Amarth & Carcass, some different from Mosh like this one), and the occasional topical item which my cross my mind from time to time. I just need to invest in a better camera (and improved photography skills) since my pictures are of a pretty poor quality, so for the time being I apologise!
Anyway, enough explaining from me, and let’s get to the gig review.
New Model Army is one of a variety of 80’s post-punk bands with heavy political commentary. However unlike a lot of more indie/post-punk from that time, the band very much stayed true to their original punk sound and ethos. The “post” part comes in the expansion of the band’s sound which includes mainly synths and additional percussion as highlighted at this gig.
Now prior to this gig I knew very little about New Model Army other than the fact that they existed, and their genre. I actually went to this gig with my dad as he is a fan and the ticket was a present from my mum. Yet another gig where I know little of what’s happening! However seeing as they were very much a punk/alt-kind of band I figured they would be appropriate for a Moshville Times review.
The band is currently on tour in support of their latest album, Between Dog and Wolf, and as such the majority of the material performed was from the new album. From an outsider’s point of view, what quality material it was. Overall the songs have a range of lengths between roughly 3 and 8 minutes on average. They are also very simplistic musically with many easy barre chords and power chords played in a typical rigid 16th note punk fashion or strummed at a fairly mid pace, though with some a little slower (such as “High”) or some a little faster (their up-tempo pure punk classic “No Rest (For the Wicked)”).
However there was one song which really caught my attention – I’m not sure what it was called but frontman Justin Sullivan had quite a scathing dig at ol’ Maggie Thatcher (surely there’s no rest for a wicked woman like her eh? I must say I can’t comment, I didn’t live through her reign as Prime Minister and I’m not really clued up on the after-effects of her government which I’m possibly currently living through) prior to the song’s performance. It was very minimalist, relying on a pretty interesting, yet still simple and effective, haunting tapped guitar riff. It’d be great to know what it was called so I can track it down!
Overall the rest of the musical arrangements are very simple in typical post-punk fashion but the thing that makes them great is the additional instrumentation of atmospheric synths adding a richer sonic texture, and the pounding additional percussion (a bell played the keyboardist and floor toms played by the bassist) creating, in conjunction with the synths and politically charged lyrics, an epic-sounding call to arms.
I can’t say I’ve ever heard punk/alt music ever sound like this before, and it’s pretty awesome!
In terms of the live performance, Justin Sullivan has an overwhelming presence and is clearly the focal point of the band. He doesn’t have to act to keep your attention and simply plays through the songs like the seasoned commander he is (though at times he does get into some movement for the harder parts of the music). Between songs he also plays the role of political spokesman; again digging at Maggie, the Tories and saying his piece on the upcoming Scottish Independence Referendum (with a few jokes on such topics in there too) thus arousing a rapturous response from the anarchic (mostly) crusties in the audience (with an average age of 45 I reckon, I’m sure I was the youngest person in the room).
Next best performance credit must go to the bassist, who was the most active member of the band with his movements covering the entirety of his corner of the stage. Clearly the youngest member of the band who may have come from some heavier pastures musically, he throws a few shapes lifting his bass in a variety of positions and hammering the toms as though each skin was Maggie’s saggy old face. There was even one or two times during some harder and faster songs his bright pink head forest flailed around in headbanging insanity as if he playing in Cannibal Corpse or Amon Amarth.
The rest of the band were pretty tame and just keeping to playing their set, however they know that Sullivan is the frontman and commands the most stage presence so to challenge him for centre stage dominance would be unadvisable.
The crowd were a different story. Again, being folks much older than I (generally around 20-odd years my senior), one would expect them to be fairly lifeless. However they certainly had the energy to contest with us young folk, with their endless movement and war cries at the top of their lungs. Hell, I get out of breath sometimes in the heat of the mosh and exhaust my voice after sing-alongs and feeble attempts at growling and screaming to heavy metal fury, but these folks are something else.
There was also one thing that I noticed the fans doing, and that was sitting on each other’s shoulders and waving their arms around in a kind-of 60’s diva-style dancing motion. For me and my dad it was actually quite annoying as were hardly the tallest of Glasgow gig goers and as such our already obscured view by the giants in front of us was covered up even more. However it is something I’ve never seen at a gig before, is it a thing that only New Model Army fans do? It would be interesting to know.
Finally, in conclusion to these fairly rubbish ramblings from someone who knows very little of New Model Army and what they’re about, I would say the music as a whole isn’t really for me personally and as such I don’t plan on buying any of their records any time soon (until such time that I would be converted to the NMA way of life I’ll most likely nick albums from my dad’s collection before buying any he doesn’t have). However, they are an impressive seasoned live act and are well worth experiencing in the flesh, even if it’s just once.
A) Despite my lack of knowledge of the songs, I’m sure Mosh will be able to find the setlist somewhere and insert it into this review. He seems to have done this for his past few reviews so I’m sure he’ll be able to do it for this one. [Done! – Mosh]
B) To the manager/staff/whoever it may concern at the Glasgow Garage, sort your drinks situation out! You ran out of 2 of your 3 available beers (Fosters and Kronenbourg, leaving only Red Stripe) after only a few songs into the gig. So be better prepared next time, and get a greater choice as your drinks choices as a whole are pretty crap – aye, you have cheap crap for skint students (I know as I’m one of them) on your daily club nights, however not all students have such terrible taste in booze. I’m certain gig-going non-skint students enjoy better pints/spirits too and don’t mind paying a little extra for quality.