The Student
Black Country, New Road live at SWG3 Poetry Club

On an October night more frigid than usual, tucked away within the warehouses in the Glasgow rain, Black Country, New Road could never have sounded more appropriate.

I was intrigued by the group after some friends drew my attention to their single “Sunglasses” (one of the two songs they have on Spotify). While the track is a slow burn that builds to a cataclysmic finale, with each listen I grew more and more enamored with the band’s blend of styles, atmosphere, and clever lyrics. It seemed worth the trek to Glasgow to see if they were the real deal.

I arrived to the opening band, who were also an incredibly weird, yet amazing act. The sweater-vested, seemingly mild-mannered frontman took me by surprise as he yelled spoken-word poetry and seemed on the verge of a manic breakdown the whole set. This coupled brilliantly with the band’s weird, synthy instrumentation, as I found them utterly authentic and unique. Unfortunately, they go by the name Famous which makes finding them on any music platform practically impossible. They may want to change that.

However, poor band name aside, Famous set the stage brilliantly for Black Country, New Road. I was shocked to see that they seemed to be around university age (and fit as all hell) and not middle-aged, rugged Brits like their music made me believe. Featuring a lineup of two guitars (one on vocals as well), a saxophone, a violin, a synth, and a drummer, it certainly was an interesting mix. Their saxophonist sat centre stage and it soon became apparent why as soon into their first song, he began doing insane flourishes and dynamics that dominated the song.

The songs themselves, besides the two I knew from Spotify, were all new to me and I felt so incredibly fortunate to hear them live for the first time. The band commanded the dark evening with the sinister atonal progressions of Slint on guitar, with the lead singer’s brooding almost spoken-word vocals. Yet, despite this dark tone, the violin and saxophone brought a beautiful rich sound to the group, harking back to the ideas of post-rock groups like Godspeed You! Black Emperor in a beautiful way. Quite simply, it was like nothing I had ever heard before, yet they performed piece after piece effortlessly. One of these was an instrumental track in which the saxophonist played in so many styles it was hard to believe it was coming out of one instrument.

I left SWG3 that night ultimately desperate for more music and speechless, a rare feeling for me even after enjoyable concerts such as this. The band looked somewhat disengaged all night and kept asking the sound guy to turn the drums and bass up after most songs, yet what they were playing was unlike anything I’d ever heard. No show has ever made me more excited for the music to come and more thankful to be at the forefront of a band as special as Black Country, New Road.

Image: Robert Bazaral