Black Country, New Road - Live At Bush Hall (Ninja Tune)

Black Country, New Road – Live At Bush Hall (Ninja Tune)

Black Country, New Road have had an impressive start to the decade so far. As well as considerable critical acclaim across the board, they’ve also scored two top-five albums with For The First Time and Ants From Up There. However, the release of the second album came just days after frontman Isaac Wood announced his decision to step away from the band.

Whilst some bands have floundered in such situations, BCNR have kept going. Lead singing duties in the band are now split between bassist Taylor Hyde, saxophonist Lewis Evans and keyboardist May Kershaw. And as you will have gathered from the title, this is a live album.

It’s easy to be cynical about live albums. Sure there are some brilliant ones, and that could be another piece in itself, but there’s plenty that seems like a quick cash-in. Live At Bush Hall is most definitely in the former camp, and it isn’t your usual live album, either. This is the set from their three sold-out back-to-back shows at London’s Bush Hall in December 2022 mixed by PJ Harvey‘s regular collaborator John Parish. It’s an album of all new material, which was written to be performed live – so why not record it live? Eight new songs (nine if we include the reprise of the album opener at the close), though perhaps not the way that might have been expected.

The album opens with the appropriately titled ‘Up Song,’ which is as euphorically wonderful as anything they’ve ever recorded. They acknowledge their situation in the wake of Wood’s departure ‘Look at what we did together, BC,NR friends forever.’ They then make way for the pastoral wonder that is ‘The Boy’ a story that unfurls over six minutes with actual chapters. 

This is an album that deserved to be listened to properly and appreciated with your undivided attention, rather than just stuck on in the background or merely added to shuffle. There’s so much going on here, and your mind will grab brief things to hold onto – is this bit pastoral free jazz or even modern classical? Some bits are very mellow and others are delightfully bonkers. It all hangs together, so they are still weaving their magic. The standout track is the epic ‘Turbines/Pigs‘ which clocks in at nearly ten minutes, and may be the very best thing the band have released so far, in their short, but rather prolific career.

What can I say, really? Except, well, that’s a wonderful hat-trick of albums they’ve given us. Those who worried about what would happen after the departure of Isaac Wood can relax. They are still in top form, showing that experimenting and actual songs can be very comfortable bedfellows and not a contradiction in terms. This is no holding operation- rather the start of a rebirth for the band.

Same time next year, then, folks? I do hope so.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.