These New Puritans seem to be a case of style over substance.
Tom Woolfenden 2008-01-24
These New Puritans' debut album arrives on a wave of excitement. Angular, brash and unashamedly intellectual - the band are seen by some as exemplifying a 'New Eccentricity' in guitar music. A movement away from luddite, retro indie. TNP sound great on paper. They cite all manner of bizarre influences – from Elizabethan magician John Dee to rap legends The Wu Tang Clan, minimalist composer Steve Reich to King William the Conqueror. They hail from the same Southend scene that spawned The Horrors and posses an accomplished producer in Gareth Jones (Wire, Liars, Einsturzende Neubauten).
However, the band fails to deliver. Driving guitars, stripped down drums, 6th form poetry - the final result on Beat Pyramid is more familiar indie territory than the experimentalism we could have hoped for. Acts like The Fall, The Futureheads and Klaxons are obvious reference points.
On opening track, Numerology (aka Numbers) frontman Jack Barnett declares over and again "Every number has a meaning…", clearly drawing from the Mark E Smith school of shouty vocals. But where The Fall can often feel urgent and exhilarating, TNP are both dry and repetitive.
They do manage to escape this dour trap from time to time - the infectious Elvis is an obvious single choice with its soaring chorus and melodic bent. The group are at their most surprising in the brief instrumental ambient sections that pepper this album. On tracks like Doppelganger, they seem to leave behind their post-punk heritage and embrace something more electronic, glitchy, ethereal and rather fresh.
It's somehow telling that the band have gathered interest from the fashion world, with singer Jack Barnett writing music for a recent Dior show and popping up on GQ's 2007 best-dressed list. Overall, These New Puritans seem to be a case of style over substance.