NEW MODEL ARMY
Much has changed since October 1980, when New Model Army played its first gig, and a lot of it is audible on "Carnival," the second-wave punk band's ninth studio album. The original lineup has swelled from three to five, and its style has become less direct and more eclectic. But if the group's music has cooled, singer-guitarist Justin Sullivan can be as fiery and focused as ever.
A populist preacher with a deep baritone and Springsteen-like theatricality, Sullivan strives to defend the powerless and scourge their oppressors. On this album, that passion takes him far from his native Bradford, England, notably to Tibet and the Africa of "Red Earth," where pattering steel drums underpin his observations of boy soldiers with "machetes and AKs, perfect skin and Bible names." Yet nothing energizes New Model Army like trouble at home, which is why the set reaches its crescendo with "Another Imperial Day," a denunciation of British immigration policy that recaptures the fury (and bass-driven propulsion) of the band's earliest work: "Jobs are free to move / But not people / Money is free to move / But not people." Given the steadfast vehemence of such songs, it almost seems that as long as there's an England to challenge, there'll always be a New Model Army.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Sunday at the Black Cat with Elkland.