Avoiding hyperbole is difficult when presented with a track as perfect and deceptively effortless as ‘Track X’, the latest offering from Black Country, New Road. A total swerve away from the polemical angst and frenzy of previous releases, ‘Track X’ summons a sense of both nostalgia and of hope.
Though first written in 2018, this new single marks a definitive change in style compared to more recently written tracks, and its intentional inclusion on the forthcoming album, For The First Time, perhaps demonstrates the journey that this enigma of a band has travelled since their inception.
‘Track X’ opens with a mesmeric guitar riff which encircles vocalist Isaac Wood’s trademark meandering spoken word, mixing the sardonic with the sincere. Suddenly, the 7 band members have become an orchestra: complementary instrumental repetitions create a richly textured sound, calling to mind modern classical works by Steve Reich or John Adams’ Shaker Loops. Chirruping offbeat saxophone and violin melodies peek out and reverberate above the steady guitars, and Wood’s sprechgesang vocals drift throughout, almost blending in to become just another instrument. Indeed, at some points it seems as if three or more songs have somehow combined to become one glorious 5-minute masterpiece. Deceivingly simple, ‘Track X’ conceals a high degree of complexity, yet the free jazz influences and the classical training of BCNR’s members are evident in the ease and skill with which the band carries off this artistry.
‘Track X’ firmly seals Black Country, New Road as one of the most technically accomplished and genre-bending bands of 2021, firmly deserving of the praise and acclaim that fans and critics alike are so eager to heap upon them. Not only that, but this track achieves something which has until now eluded BCNR, and has perhaps been so far off their radar as to be a totally alien concept: it is beautiful.
Header image: Black Country, New Road. Credit: Matilda Hill-Jenkins.