Black Country, New Road’s ‘Ants from Up There’ marks the beginning and end of their journey together

This article was originally published on The Emory Wheel. A review of Black Country New Road album “Ants From Up There.”

The up-and-coming British rock group Black Country, New Road, released its post-punk album “Ants from Up There” in early February, leaving many of its listeners in a state of immense joy and inevitable sadness due to the group’s split after composing two albums together.

Two weeks before the album’s release, the primary lyricist and lead singer of the group, Isaac Wood, published a statement confirming his resignation from the band. The remaining members intend to continue releasing music as a group although missing a vital part.

I did not know what a perfect album sounded like until I heard this record. The band composed a beautifully executed narrative of love and loss with bold lyricism and instrumentals reminiscent of Slint and Arcade Fire. Wood’s earth-shattering and idiosyncratic voice made me feel every single emotion despite the ambiguity of his lyrics.

His voice is deep and somber, and it grows in moments of intensity to what resembles a strained scream. Although sadness surrounds his departure, Wood left an irreplaceable mark on modern art-rock music.

The album’s introduction, “Intro,” intertwines bright horns and heavy drum beats that reflect the boisterous execution of the later parts of the album. The following song, “Chaos Space Marine,” consists of the same explosive instrumentals and lyrically references the Concorde’s transcontinental travel, alluding to the prominence of stylistic appearance in a modern age and the general chaos that comes with relationships — especially ones that include members of the touring band. These two tracks build anticipation and tension, which ultimately highlight moments of calmness and catharsis at the end of the album.

The following, and notably one of the more sorrowful songs of the record, “Concorde,” describes the feeling of dissociation Wood encounters while traveling and gaining acclaim. The repetitive third-person phrase, “Isaac will suffer, Concorde will fly,” allows the listener to understand and sympathize with the lead singer. As Black Country, New Road continues to gain recognition and praise, it leads to a degree of isolation that concludes in agony. The underlying theme of “Concorde” is that of a destructive relationship. The singer is far more dedicated than the other party is and will do anything to gain their love. The line, “I was made to love you, can’t you tell,” underscores the desperation that is evident in the lyrics and the drum, electric guitar and saxophone of the ballad.

Continuing with the motif of strained relationships, “Bread Song” displays the necessary end to the compromised couple of “Concorde” and compares this feeling of loss to a bothersome bread crumb left on someone’s bed, one that the other partner never wanted there in the first place. The upbeat drum and guitar juxtaposed with the heartbreaking lyrics left me feeling empty in the end.

“Good Will Hunting,” “Haldern” and “Mark’s Theme” introduce a jazz influence new to Black Country, New Road’s work. The group’s effortless execution of this different style displays the group members’ versatility and immense talent. Although not consisting of the same earth-shattering lyricism as other tracks on the record, the songs continue the narrative swiftly toward its conclusion.

The half hour conclusion of the record, which consists of the tracks “The Place Where He Inserted the Blade,” “Snow Globes” and “Basketball Shoes,” is what defined this album for me. These songs contain the most enigmatic lyrics on “Ants from Up There.” The production and the manner in which Wood completely embodies the pain and sorrow in his poetry through the power in his voice paired with its versatile musicality truly entranced me. Instrumentally, the songs begin slowly with a light guitar and grow to outbursts of horns and intense drums. The final lines that Wood sings on the album, “Your generous loan to me, your crippling interest,” is one of my favorite lyrics of all time and made his departure from the group all the more understandable. In the perception of the lyricist, somewhere along the way, the creation of music and art seemed like a transaction, one that he was willing to give up.

This album allows listeners inside Wood’s mind, explaining his reason for leaving the band: production demands that overshadow the depth of the art. This idea is what many believe influenced the album’s title, “Ants from Up There.” The title is reminiscent of when you’re sitting in an airplane and you see everyone running around trying to find their way, like the moment of clarity that comes before the bittersweet conclusion as Black Country, New Road finds a different path to travel.

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