These New Puritans: Hidden
I have a history with These New Puritans. First, I failed to see them support BSP last year because, for some unknown reason, the promoter switched the support bands round and they had come and gone before I’d left the bar. Rarely do I leave the bar for support acts so after all the effort of doing so I was miffed. Second, I recommended them to a mate who suggests loads of new music to me, which I dutifully follow up, but rarely seems interested in those I point him towards. With this lot I thought I was onto a sure fire winner – they had something of the F*ll about them and with him being a lifelong fan (I’m surrounded by the buggers) I thought I couldn’t lose. Unfortunately, listening to their first album I realised I’d got it wrong for one simple reason: it was shit. Fashionably angular and gratingly yelpy I got bored of their sound very quickly, as did he. I’ve not suggested anything to him since.
So it’s with some surprise that I wish to announce that Hidden is really rather good. It’s an album with a mighty sense of ambition and an arrogant swagger that attracts rather than repels. This lies mainly in the album’s sense of the dramatic and the baroque that pervades throughout (reminiscent of Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man). The standout moment is the striking and darkly Massive Attack sounding ‘We Want War’ which is nothing short of a beast of tune. Here and elsewhere it becomes apparent that they’ve not held back on chucking everything at their sound: grinding dancehall beats, techno squelches, woodwind and brass sections, choirs and, of course, the sound of a sword being drawn, are all (more or less successfully) syncretised. I never realised how much contemporary music has been lacking the sound of armoury being readied until I’d listened to Hidden.
Sometimes it’s all a bit too self-consciously clever. Thus there are moments (e.g. on ‘Orion’) where the sense of ART! and experimentation makes you want to kick it in the bollocks, spit in its fringe and call it a twat. I’ve yet to have this kerfuffle with it, but I’m sure it’s immanent.
These New Puritans then seem to have joined the small but interesting rank of bands that change their sound enough from their first major output to avoid that ‘difficult second album’ phenomenon. The Horrors did it superbly on last year’s Primary Colours. Bands that have failed in the attempt and have become progressively more annoying and disposable include Editors and Bloc Party. But forget about them and have a go at Hidden.
Buy it here, what with their swanky new website and all.