UPDATED: The stunning video for the song has been released to YouTube.
I thought there were a pair of comparable albums to come out of the post-Klaxons beats+thrashy guitars+searing synths movement. The first, released in 2007, was These New Puritans’ Beat Pyramid; the second, Late Of The Pier’s Fantasy Black Channel, exhumed from some twisted nightmarish grave in 2008. For me, Beat Pyramid was the superior beast, displaying a lot less cheese, an attempt to tackle disparate conspiracist topics like numerology and doppelgängers, and generally coming across like the work of artists with a little more focus and sensibility. Fantasy Black Channel was more messy and sprawling and clumsy, while Beat Pyramid tried out some interesting conceptual manœuvres (refrains, lyrical and music themes that re-surfaced elsewhere on the album, intra-album remixing) that they pulled off with some aplomb.
And so I’m rather glad that These New Puritans are back, this time wielding a seven-minute-plus single called “We Want War”, which precedes the 2010 release of Hidden, their sophomore album. “We Want War” is undoubtedly a more ambitious and high-budget affair, boasting woodwind arrangements, choirs, and the actual sounds of warfare. It’s also lost some of the DIY charm of the band’s previous work – where before they had beats that sound like they’d been punched in the chest and run over by an articulated lorry, this new material rides in on suspiciously crisp taiko drumming. Though the tone is supposed to be foreboding and doom-laden, it’s actually much less harrowing and brutal than songs like “Infinity ytinifni”.
For all that, it’s still a storming track, boasting several sudden shifts in tone and pace, and a combination of samples and loops and kitchen sinks that thrills and astonishes me. They’re clearly a band of wild ambition and excess, but key to “We Want War”‘s appeal is that it reins in any really extraneous excess, and we end up with a long, long song, that doesn’t outstay its welcome. The comparison I imagine will be made will be with Massive Attack – this song shares that Bristol group’s unnerving sense of dread and apocalypse. “We Want War” also rides along the same kind of lazily terrifying beat as Massive Attack’s “Inertia Creeps”. Expect Hidden to be a less unkempt album, but certainly no less indicative of the band’s manifold talents and experiments.