Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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New Model Army

  • No Rest for the Wicked [Capitol, 1985] B
  • The Ghost of Cain [Capitol, 1986] A-
  • New Model Army [Capitol EP, 1987] B-
  • Thunder and Consolation [Capitol, 1989] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

No Rest for the Wicked [Capitol, 1985]
The State Department says they can't tour the U.S.--"no artistic merit." You can understand why they think this reflects on their politics, which are in the old English tradition of left chauvinism--they hate consumer blandishments with a passion that springs not from their readings in Hans Magnus Enzensberger but from a natural militance that deplores softness in class allies. Such an ideology would exclude artistic merit in the minds of most bureaucrats (as indeed would many other ideologies, not to mention the presence of electric guitars), and that's abhorrent. I'd be hard-pressed to argue compelling positive distinction on an often plodding football-punk sort of album, its words sharper in tone and spirit than content. But I'd give it a try. B

The Ghost of Cain [Capitol, 1986]
If Tom Robinson had been young and proletarian enough to want the TRB to sound like the Clash, this oi band gone pop is how it might have come out. After three albums their gift for the anthem far exceeds, for instance, Easterhouse's, as in the anti-American "51st State" and the anti-'76 "Heroes." And though their vigilante rhetoric and doubts about terrorism have some young reds thinking fascist dupe, they're just working-class guys whose left instincts are ahead of their ideology--which I hope never shrugs off street crime or package bombs. A-

New Model Army [Capitol EP, 1987]
Although the object of Slade the Leveller's fury isn't hard to figure out--"She'll dance on our graves" doesn't refer to his mum--the analysis on the three new studio songs is a bit metaphorical for such a populist band. What white coats? What Valley of Death? What Chinese whispers? The live best-of on the B is a live best-of plus half an unannounced sea chantey. B-

Thunder and Consolation [Capitol, 1989]
The alienation most bands traffic in is a byproduct of moderate privilege--with sustenance a given, they rant or joke or whine or bellow about meaning. This band sings for the true losers. Given their subject/audience, it's no wonder they've been known to make Britcrits fret about fascism--crippled and scattered by Thatcherism, deprived of the belonging the family isn't good for anymore, these ordinary ungifted people could turn into fascism's foot soldiers. Of course, give up on them and that's what you leave them. Identify, empathize, observe, remember, and they've got that much margin. B+