Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army (established in 1645 during the English Civil War) “was raised partly from among veteran soldiers who already had deeply held Puritan religious convictions, and partly from conscripts who brought with them many commonly held beliefs about religion or society. Many of its common soldiers therefore held dissenting or radical views unique among English armies,” according to Wikipedia.
Likewise, the band New Model Army was raised from the British punks they have continued to spread their deeply held humanitarian convictions for over 30 years. They have taken on the “Christian Militia” (right-wing fundamentalism) and the “51st State” (American imperialism in Britain). Their new album, Between Wolf and Dog, sacrifices none of their righteous fury that has sustained over the past decades and embraces a tribal thunder.
The title comes from the French phase for sunset (“L’heure entre chien et loupe”). Singer Justin Sullivan explains that it comes from “when it’s hard to distinguish between dog and wolf, friend or foe.” The four years since their previous album saw the death of their manager, the departure of their old bassist and the loss of their studio and equipment due to fire and theft. It has not extinguished the bittersweet hope that has always been at the core of New Model Army. “We used this to make a new beginning… We are very excited about the new album and what the future holds for the band.”
No strangers to muscular, martial drums, “Horseman” opens the album with a loping beat like a team of horses. The cavalry has not begun to charge yet. This is a display of might and potential. It heralds the sound to come.
“March in September” provides the lead video. Footage is provided from a documentary about the band due out in 2014. It follows their tradition of you-vs. -them songs. “So you gave them your own blood, but has it been stolen?”
Drums rumble and thunder continue throughout. It’s the roll that compliments the rock. “Did You Make It Safe?” pounds like an excited heartbeat, accompanied by a call-and-response chant. The ticking of “I Need More Time” exudes a maniacal calm. Well, until it blows up. “Lean Back and Fall” and “Summer Moors” offer Sullivan’s balladry that shows his poetic side. He once called himself Slade the Leveler. “Between Dog and Wolf” plays toy piano against flanged guitar, building to a strut. “Tomorrow Came” bears an occasional passing resemblance to Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia,” but with more glory and less prog. “Quasr El Nil Bridge” celebrates the location of public demonstrations during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, and might invent the Heavy Belly Dance genre. “Ghosts” concludes things with a melancholy meditation.
Previous album titles like Vengeance, No Rest for the Wicked, and The Love of Hopeless Causes could make the impression that New Model Army are strident and dour. Their real attitude is captured with Thunder & Consolation. They roar, but they care. Why else would they fight the good fight?
Between Dog and Wolf was unleashed on September 23, 2013. It is available at the New Model Army website at http://shop.newmodelarmy.org/cds-c-1.html.