The British post-punk thing has gotten a little out of hand. The U.S. post-punk thing got kind of ridiculous a long time ago, but that’s sort of why we were counting on Great Britain to bail us out of this post-”Jealous Lovers” rut. I mean, it was fun for a while, right? “Banquet” was the jam. “Take Me Out” was the anthem. “Decent Days And Nights,” well it was just awesome. But then we started to get bands like Boy Kill Boy and !Forward, Russia! and the idea of breakneck disco beats and jagged guitars pretty much lost its charm. I was pretty much done with nü-post-punk until These New Puritans came along and gave my arse a swift kicking.
These New Puritans, whose members are newly in their 20s, are more than notable exceptions to this crowded field of Gang of Four knock-offs, and with good reason. Where many of the United Kingdom’s Franz-trailing bands offer essentially a diluted version of post-punk, sounding more Killers than Joy Division, These New Puritans aren’t going to any great lengths to make each song as radio friendly and hook-filled as possible. If hooks make their way into any of the band’s songs, good, otherwise, their abrasive, icy approach offers enough of a thrill on its own.
Where Elastica were a band utilizing a Wire hook in a football anthem (not a criticism—I still consider “Connection” a classic), These New Puritans are one of few bands in recent memory with a chilling, abstractness that actually shares a lot in common with Wire. These New Puritans’ songs are minimal and efficient, each jab of guitar deadly and sharp and every one of Jack Barnett’s barks straightforward and direct. In “Numerology (aka Numbers)” Barnett asks, “what’s your favorite number, what does it mean?” over a jittery, well-oiled and mechanized riff. The chorus reveals a dreamy, mesmerizing wash of sound, a far cry from the pistons firing in each verse.
“Colours” finds the band taking on a similar trick, introducing a rough and ragged progression, merely to ascend into melodic bliss later on. The band isn’t averse to making that melodic bliss the entire focus; in its brief 90 seconds, “Doppelgänger” floats on a cloud of synths without allowing a guitar to slice through its ambience. “En Papier” is the five-minute centerpiece of the album, making it the longest song on the album, and also one of the most interesting. The guitars sound dirtier than usual, yet the title becomes a thrilling choral chant, one that I’m sorry to have missed at South by Southwest. Nothing else here approaches the head-trip of “Infinity Ytinifni” (a trip well worth taking), and single “Elvis” proves they might have a hit in them after all…if the public is ready for something a little more challenging on the charts.
There’s no point in dancing around it (as it’s much better to dance along to), These New Puritans are an artsy sort. They’re solid and efficient, as musicians and songwriters, but each song on Beat Pyramid is designed to offer exactly what it needs to—nothing more, nothing less. That may not result in the band becoming the “next big thing” in the NME, just a splendid album that will outlive its peers.
Wire – Chairs Missing
Ikara Colt – Chat & Business
The Fall – Grotesque (After the Gramme)