0 9 mins 2 mths

Released January 26th on earMUSIC.

Back in December I sent the FRAME Editor a message asking if he would like the Elvana gig in Cardiff covered? A month later my chickens come home to roost and I read a message that says “You still up for Elvana, I’m dropping them a note?

Added onto that was a “You a fan of New Model Army? I have an album due out next week up for review?” My confession of being so, to a degree, yet not being an aficionado held little water, and I find myself with a link to the album, we haggle over a submission date…..!

So, here it is, a review of Unbroken, the 16th album offering from the New Model Army. It’s from someone who has ‘followed’ what they do on and off for the last 43 years, but wouldn’t chase them around the country, and who was impressed when he saw (and photographed) NMA live at Lakefest 2022.

Track 1 – First Summer After – This track is fabulous, it hits you immediately, and you are held there in that moment. Powerful, punchy thought provoking lyrics make you listen as well as hear! There’s a story in there. Imagine yourself in an open top car with this blaring out? Imagine yourself somewhere on the winding roads in the mountains of Scotland, the sun (strangely for Scotland) shines brightly; you have the rest of the album to listen to, but there’s a dilemma, you could indeed listen to the other 10 tracks, or you could very well press the repeat track button, you wouldn’t easily get bored of this track.

Track 2 – Language – Lovely opening bass, and another great track! The lyrics seem to warn the listener, to urge caution, almost if you talk the talk type of stuff. The track (as the title suggests) suggests that you reap what you sow, if you talk of love then love prevails, if on the other hand you shout about war, then that is the path that will open up for you. Choose wisely!

Track 3 – Reload – The opening lyrics of this track remind me of what I don’t like about NMA, why I’ve never been their greatest follower, “If I have to see another fucking Union Jack”! Well Mr Angry, personally I’m partial to a Union Jack, I’d rather see one flying in our country, than a flag that is of some current fashionable cause / fad! Anyway I digress, (and without getting into a discussion) Reload is a hard hitting track with a lot of political bias. It (rightly) slates the rich and the powerful and their lack of understanding of the reality that us mere mortals deal with, and with that I have no issue!

Track 4 – I Did Nothing Wrong – This track is all about the Post Office scandal that has been simmering for years, and has had a recent resurgence after the TV drama. Written a couple of years ago it tells of large scale corporate cruelty, and the absolutely staggering arrogance of the ‘Big Boys’ to admit failure when the ‘Little Man’ talks back! Paula Vennells hang your head in shame!

Track 5 – Cold Wind – Dark and dirty is the impression from the opening 30 seconds of this. Yet I get to the end of the track and I’m still mystified (for that read I’m still trying to work out) what, besides (a Cold Wind) this is about, to me it’s the low point of the album, and it lasts 5min 27 secs!!!

Track 6 – Coming or Going – Much the same as Cold Wind for me. This track does nothing for me, easily forgettable.

Track 7 – If I Am Still Me – The drums at the start are a bit Adam Ant-esque, as I heard them I did wonder where this was going, was it a turn that I wasn’t expecting, a new path for the NMA perhaps? I continued to listen and there is something in this track that ‘hooks me’. “I have to see if I am still me” for some reason I can relate to. It seems that it’s all about challenging oneself, whilst knowing that the chances of winning are slim, and accepting the inevitable outcome, oh, and I love the line “I’m entertained by my own stupidity”! There, but for the Grace of God…….go I.

Track 8 – Legend – Different. A seasoned NMA follower might appreciate this, I’m not sure I do, if I’m honest? It’s probably (if there is such a thing) stereotypical NMA, and if that’s your thing then crack on, but having reached the end of the track it’s not for me. As a layman I have no idea why, but it’s the 2nd track on the album to mention “a Cain”?

Track 9 – Do You Really Want To Go There? – Along the lines of Tracks 5 and 6 for me. If I wasn’t reviewing it then I’d fast forward it. For me dull, and easily forgettable.

Track 10 – Idumea – A slow starter, but with an interesting vocal lead. The lyrics of “We all had different reasons to be there” intrigue me. The introduction of the drums to support (rather than overpower the vocals) indicate there is more to this track than initial impressions suggest. It soon turns into an emotive and haunting track, emphasised by the inclusion of what appears to be a choir at 2mins 11 secs. As the track proceeds I am led to envisage the closing scenes of a Viking inspired battle, it’s a rainy, misty, bloody day, soaked and exhausted, yet victorious, Vikings stand around, steam rising from them, the battle is over, the wounded and dead lie all around, amongst this the main character lays dying from a fatal wound, and questions are asked as to why. This track would fit that scene exceptionally well.

The final dark lyrics to the track are:

And am I born to die?

To lay this body down!

And must my trembling spirit fly

Into a world unknown?

And see the Judge with glory crowned

And see the flaming skies!

Track 11 – Deserters – And so the final track on the album, and I remain unconvinced about it’s suitability as a track to use as a reminder of the album. It’s not a ‘classic’, to me it’s an average track at best. I’d rather the opening and closing tracks on an album are memorable, for obvious reasons!

Conclusion – The album (for me personally) is a very hit and miss thing, I genuinely liked some of the tracks, they piqued my interest, they made me sit up and take notice of what the NMA are capable of. Some of the other tracks I struggled with, it was difficult to leave the FF button alone. All in all yeah, it was ok, would I buy it, I doubt it, I’d be selective in the tracks I downloaded.

Whilst I doubt that ‘Unbroken’ was part of Sir Thomas Fairfax’s original thinking when he was installed as Commander in Chief of the New Model Army, and as an original member there would generally be approval of this offering from him, of that M’Lord, I am sure…..

Unbroken is available from all of the ‘normal’ sources.

Limited Edition Red Vinyl available.

CD Version also available.

PS – Oh, and I’m still going to Elvana, so if you are going too I’ll see you there!

Reviewed by Taff Wiltshire for FRAME Music. I am a Music Photographer. I am not a Sound Engineer, nor am I a Lighting Engineer, I am not a Stage Tech, and surprisingly I am not a Stage Manager. (If you know, you know!).