Published on May 3rd, 2019 | by voxx0
These New Puritans – Inside The Rose
The experimental brothers’ first record in six years is worth the wait…
Southend’s These New Puritans are an odd group in that sometimes they aren’t a group at all. By the time they released their excellent third album Field Of Reeds in 2013, what began as a quartet had essentially been reduced to band figurehead Jack Barnett. Even his twin brother George had been sidelined in Jack’s pursuit of making a masterpiece. That record saw Barnett move ever closer to realising the sonic perfection he hears in his head, an album that mixed neoclassical symphonics, hypnotic Philip Glass-influenced arrangements and eerie melodies, revealing its inner warmth over repeated listens. It proved that 2010’s second LP Hidden, which featured taiko drum thuds and warped brass sections and often sounded a bit like Massive Attack doing a boxer’s entrance tune, was no fluke. These New Puritans were a band turning the notion of what modern rock should be inside out and upside down.
Despite George’s assurances that they were working on “the most commercial thing ever” when their label would enquire how the band’s first record in six years was coming along, Inside The Rose is not the moment when These New Puritans suddenly unveil their new Imagine Dragons-influenced sound. Written and recorded in Essex and Berlin, it’s as strange and beautiful as the previous two albums would have you expect, if a little more direct in its delivery. The push and pull of the twins’ personalities is what lies at its heart, a dynamic summed up best by album highlight ‘A-R-P’. A slow-moving ballad that sounds like Depeche Mode’s take on the theme for The Sky At Night, Jack had envisioned it meandering to a slow conclusion only for his brother to convince him to tag on some cascading Aphex Twin-style beats over the top. It’s a clash of sublime strings and urgent rhythms that provides the record’s exhilarating peak. These New Puritans going full-on cosmic rave is the These New Puritans you didn’t know you needed.
A lot of the tracks here arrive at a moment of surprising drama, suggesting George was spurring on his brother to introduce a little more bombast into their work. ‘Beyond Black Suns’ left-turns into a sci-fi opera and ‘Where The Trees Are On Fire’ is all choral desolation until it transforms into a fevered Radiohead song for the last two minutes. Orchestral opener ‘Infinity Vibraphones’ twists and turns around Jack’s tremulous croon before eventually clicking into a minimalist groove. In the context of the whole album, you can hear why they chose ‘Into The Fire’ as the first song to release. Its polar combination of yearning melodies and pummelling beats is a constant hallmark. It’s as if every time Jack wrote a hook that sounded too sweet, he’d get his brother to play drums really loudly over the top of it. While it’s undoubtedly the frontman’s vision at play here, it’s the alchemy between the siblings that turns these songs into something truly special.
Inside The Rose marks out These New Puritans as one of the most daring and ambitious bands of the decade, making you marvel at where they could go next. Let’s hope it won’t take another six years to find out.
- By Jake White