23rd November 2009
New Model Army & Winston
“Silence in the middle of a Rock gig, that’s interesting!” said Justin Sullivan of NEW MODEL ARMY at the show in Münster. Were people at the show bored and asleep, or just speechless and in awe? Probably rather the latter, as a NEW MODEL ARMY live show is still, after 30 years of a career, one of the most exciting things for a Rock fan.
WINSTON is a yet unsigned band from Wuppertal, Germany. Their sound is basically Rock, with some Indie and Grunge influences as well as Post-Metal and also with the will to experiment and try out more complex and “difficult” approaches. The trio consists of Basti Bauer (bass), David Eickmeier (guitar / vocals) and Thorben Doege (drums). http://www.myspace.com/winstonandthemorlocks
Music & Performance
First thing that was striking me when entering the new Jovel Music Hall (which has a tradition of three decades in Münster but was re-located to a new venue last year) was that the place looked somewhat cold and empty. Well, the new Jovel was originally a car dealer’s showroom, and a huge one! Not a place made for a concert that’s for sure, and even though the owners of the Jovel tried their best to create a nice atmosphere there it gives you a feeling of being huge, cold, and empty. When WINSTON entered the stage the rather bad and way too echoing acoustics didn’t help much to improve the first impression. And even though the venue was pretty well filled at this point it still gives you the feeling of vastness and emptiness, especially because of the pretty high ceiling.
So I moved to the front where the sound was clearly better. WINSTON played their asses off and were truly into what they are doing up there, even though the NEW MODEL ARMY fans were still a bit reserved. Maybe WINSTON is too much Nirvana, Jesus Lizard and Big Black for their taste. However, the longer they played, the noisier and heavier WINSTON got. Someone joked that they look like “hard rock hobbits” but we won’t be that dismissive as WINSTON did a really good job. And while they might be not the perfect match for NEW MODEL ARMY musically it’s great that Sullivan & Co give unsigned acts a chance and invite them to tour with them. WINSTON love and live Rock music, so the last song of their 40-minute set was simply and aptly called “Rock Song” - and they dragged on the finale of the song so much that it was clear that they simply didn’t want to leave the stage. Good stuff!
Total: 7.9 / 10
New Model Army
In the year 2009, NEW MODEL ARMY is Justin Sullivan, Nelson, Michael Dean, Dean White, and Marshall Gill. The band started in Bradford, UK, in autumn 1980 with a few gigs as a trio. Being like an antithesis to the 1980s New Romantic and Synth pop movements, the politically and socially aware band found it easy to gather a cult following but hard to find a record deal. So it took a while until the band released their first album, ‘Vengeance’ in 1984, while NEW MODEL ARMY already had a reputation as one of being one the best and most intense live bands. NEW MODEL ARMY's earliest material could probably with some justification be regarded as modern Punk, albeit more melodic and with a significant Folk Rock influence and even a Northern Soul touch. Through the years, however, New Model Army have experimented with quite a few musical styles and nurtured numerous different inspirations.
The Thatcher-era in the 1980s was a period of political turmoil for the UK and fuelled the fury of the politically left-wing NEW MODEL ARMY, and social issues were a big inspiration for Sullivan’s lyrics. In the Great Britain NEW MODEL ARMY played big festivals like Glastonbury and Reading, they started to tour mainland Europe but they were denied to tour the USA as they weren’t granted visas - some claim that this was because of political reasons and songs like ‘51st State’, a massive hit until today and an outspoken statement against American Imperialism. With albums like ‘Thunder and Consolation’ (1989), ‘Impurity’ (1990) and the live album ‘Raw Melody Men’ (1991), NEW MODEL ARMY had become a chart act and one of the biggest bands in the international Rock scene, but they never lost their street credibility and underground flavour. In the early 1990s Folk Rock, pioneered and inspired in part by NEW MODEL ARMY, became a fashionable and commercial sound, and the band made a deliberate move away from it and straight into guitar-driven Rock music on their 1993 album ‘The Love Of Hopeless Causes’, which was not what fans expected but still quite a success.
The rest of the nineties saw numerous solo projects, Sullivan producing other bands and embarking on acoustic solo tours, projects with RED SKY COVEN, the poet Joolz Denby and other side projects. So it lasted until 1998 until NEW MODEL ARMY returned with a new studio album, entitled ‘Strange Brotherhood’. Although not as successful as in their heyday in terms of record sales, NEW MODEL ARMY has remained relevant particularly as a live band. The 21st century saw four NEW MODEL ARMY studio albums, from ‘Eight’ in the year 2000 to this year’s ‘Today is a Good Day”, released in September on the band’s own Attack Attack label. The new album is a raw, dark and decidedly heavy effort, and the lyrics are full of cynical side-blows against bankers and politicians in the age of the worldwide economic crisis. http://www.newmodelarmy.org/ / http://www.myspace.com/newmodelarmymyspace
Music & Performance
After a 40-minute wait, with some extra sound checks after the support band, NEW MODEL ARMY finally entered the stage. ‘States Radio’ from the new album blasted through the PA, and thankfully the sound was much better than I dared to hope for just a few minutes before. The extra sound checking yielded its fruit, apparently. ‘States Radio’ sounded very heavy, probably the closest NEW MODEL ARMY will ever get to Metal, and it even included a classic guitar solo by Marshall Gills. Perhaps some old fans were surprised to hear something like this at a NMA concert! The energy-driven ‘Here Comes the War’ taken from the classic ‘Love of Hopeless Causes’ album followed and provided for the first mosh pit, the first shout-alongs and many fists in the air. In front of the stage the atmosphere was exactly as you’d expect it to be at a NEW MODEL ARMY show: People jumping, dancing, shouting, singing and pogo-dancing, but with a spirit of community and not with aggression. The crowd in the back was rather calm and the venue’s cold vastness maybe one reason for this.
The energy of NEW MODEL ARMY didn’t translate well to the whole of the audience, and to be honest the band did look a bit tired. Not a big surprise after a few weeks being on the road. The gig in Münster was the last of the European leg of NMA’s 2009 tour, and it showed. Maybe it was just one of those “Monday shows”. After another oldie, ‘The Charge’, it was about time for some songs from the new album ‘Today is a Good Day”. While some long-time fans probably miss the subtle Folk elements in the new stuff, I actually enjoyed the brand-new songs a lot. ‘Mambo Queen of The Sandstone City’ displayed its full beauty in the live setting, and the title track of the new album is probably going to be NEW MODEL ARMY’s next classic and live anthem at future tours. In the middle of the gig this curious moment happened - in a longer break between songs Justin Sullivan stood in front of his mike with an open mouth, and the whole crowd was absolutely silent and waiting for him saying something. “Interesting”, Sullivan finally said, “silence in the middle of a Rock gig!” followed by loud laughter. The silence wasn’t a bad thing per se, even though one could argue that people in the back were pretty much half-asleep still. But at the front it was a big party! NEW MODEL ARMY continued to perform a few songs from their last few albums - including the wonderful ‘High’ - and threw in a few more classics like the stunning ‘White Coats’ and, of course, the live anthem ‘Vagabonds’ which was rocked up quite a bit. Marshall Gill’s heavy guitar was all over the place, giving old and new tunes are much harder sound. Most of the subtle melodic somehow folk-ish elements of the earlier NMA were gone for most of this show, replaced by a thick and uncompromising rawness and straighter Rock structures.
After the 1998 single ‘Wonderful Way to Go’, NEW MODEL ARMY left the stage, and after another short moment of silence *g* they started their encore with the emotional ‘Rivers’ from the ‘High’ album. The rest of encore was exactly what the fans were craving for - energetic, intense and emotionally charged up-tempo songs with ‘Poison Street’ and the magnificent ‘Get Me Out’, and a nostalgic and beautiful end with ‘Green & Grey’. No ‘51st State’ was played, perhaps to the regret of the casual fans and to the delight of the die-hards. The show in Münster did not show NEW MODEL ARMY at its best, some of the recent shows were surely better and met a livelier crowd in better locations, but the concert proved that NMA still has quite a following and will continue to be relevant as a live act. NEW MODEL ARMY will be back in Europe in early 2010 - so don’t miss them!
01. States Radio
02. Here Comes the War
03. The Charge
04. Bad Harvest
05. Mambo Queen of the Sandstone City
06. Peace Is Only
07. Today Is a Good Day
10. One of the Chosen
16. Wonderful Way to Go
18. Poison Street
19. Get Me Out
20. Green & Grey
Total: 8.1 / 10
All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com/ / http://www.black-cat-net.de/ / www.myspace.com/vorndranphotography)