Booming timpani’s, woodwind crescendos and terrifyingly adverse brass sections. There’s no question that 2010’s Hidden was a triumph and acclaimed masterpiece from the Southend-on-Sea quartet, but one question still lurks in their frightening shadow. Are they the dark horse of British bands.
Brainstorming an album as melodically and methodically complex has Hidden couldn’t have been an easy job by any means. For an alternative-indie rock band to go from writing a typically dark and string based album to composing classically influence symphony style indie rock fusion songs within the space of just two solitary years, is quite something. Over the decades, influential rock bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and even as far up as Radiohead have been cognitively analysed, probed and unknotted to find out their attenuate brilliance and circuitous creative ability. If you read behind the bold print, and even past the fine print, you’ll see one band standing one their own very faintly on the page of British music.
One thing people don’t seem to notice about bands like These New Puritans, is just how exquisitely produced and created their work is. Any other band, no matter how darkened and nocturnal their music would seem to be, only These New Puritans seem fitting to pull off something like Hidden. In a blend of Joy Division-esque bass and manic depressive mood swings, and the saddening, yet angry, dissonance of Tchaikovsky, the end result was quite something. Melodramatic, war-raising and spiteful, Hidden is the black mark on modern day British music, but for all the right reasons. NME’s Mike Williams earlier this year exclaimed that PJ Harvey’s triumphant Let England Shake was the “war album”. Incontestably, Williams hadn’t read enough Earnest Hemingway novels to know exactly what a “war album” really sounds like. No disrespect to PJ Harvey, but she had been bested to the war-maker title a year before the release of her own remarkable album.
Radiohead played it safely by releasing two indie rock albums, Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer (maybe a minor exception) before they saturated themselves out of their comfort zone, and boiled a critical creation in Kid A. Years after the release, they’re now renowned for releasing weird and minimalist dance and electro albums. Maybe the message is that making music not entirely from your comfort zone into your own makes you a better band? Not entirely so, as Jack Barnett and co have shown us. Using samples and syncopated timpani rhythms from Sir Edward Elgar and Richard Rodney Bennet on Hidden, matched the classical ambience of the band themselves, not just their music.
Unlike other post-punk indie band that trying living out of the sun and in the shade, like The Horrors, Placebo, Chapel Club and many others, These New Puritans suit having an orchestra behind them. Drenching corse bass lines and diminished harmonies in brass filled melodic clarinet textures adds to the way the band carry themselves. Anger, sweat and sore fingers and what first springs to the hippocampus when one envisions classical and romantic period composers like Bach, Beethoven and others.
As is the custom, you’d think it would be a tragedy for out nation to have acquired such a diverse and watermarked collection of young artists working together in These New Puritans, that they barely scratch at the surface in attracting the population. Blurring the visions of what is melodically possible for a post-punk band to dictate from a brass band is one of rare artistic eclipses that remind people exactly how talented, and yet concealed, certain bands and individuals can be. However, this now is not the case with These New Puritans.
In seven disjointed and long years, Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, in what has been profound and worldly recognizable paintings in artistic history. In 2008, Damian Hirst made £111 Million after a two day exhibition at Sotheby’s extravaganza after twenty years in the business. Radiohead, after releasing indie rock anthems and records for five successful years, totally reinvented their sound and musical make up in creating Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief. In just two years, These New Puritans managed to transform their sound into something so melodically distinctive and diverse from their past compositions, that they have outdone one of the most influential rock bands of recent history.
Yes, they’re a virtually unknown band to the wider population, this can’t be denied. Maybe this is the way for a reason? Leave the un-credible efforts for those who define that music as talented and worth their money and motivation. If you ask me, Hidden was created by a band who only write music in their way, and for those who appreciate it for what it is. Looking at this conclusion, the dark horses of British music do have Britain and British musical and artistic culture in the palm of their hands. They’re just choosing not to exploit it in the way others may want them to. And lets keep it that way.