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Vengeance is the debut album by New Model Army and like most of their work can't easily be categorised, a mixture between punk, new wave and often including heavier or even softer folk stuff with an often militant style to it. The majority of lyrics contain political views and many of the songs have quality bass licks worthy of The Stranglers.
The most powerful songs for me are Christian Militia and Spirit of the Falklands, the poetic lyrics expressed in a brash manner with perfect timing to the music is undoubtedly the band's strongest point. Notice Me is another good track which talks about a child who wants to be noticed. Personally I prefer the upbeat tracks to the quieter ones (A Liberal Education for instance does nothing for me) probably because I'm a bit of a heathen but there you go! Vengeance is another song that is up there with the powerful lyrics "I believe in justice, I believe in vengeance, I believe in getting the bastard, getting the bastard"
Sex (the black angel) is another track that doesn't really seem to go anywhere, it's soon corrected by Running in the Rain which is heavier and finally topped off with the upbeat marchin track that has to be said is good to march to "Spirit of the Falklands", finishing the album off with "Great Expectations" a great track of social commentary and then another quiet track in "Waiting" which has a Joy Division influenced bass line.
The LP was released in 1984 by Abstract and seems to be available in several different re-issue formats these days with anywhere between 10 and 21 songs, most of them bonus material or different remixes of tracks.
New Model Army have had a career long enough and musical imagination broad enough to have been all things to all people. Their music covers such scope as to have some appeal to most people. From the full on punk aggression of the early work, to the violin accompanied dark and windswept epics of the late eighties, to the experimental styles of more recent times. This however is where it all began, the album that spawned a musical monster.Even with this, their first album, you can see that there is an uncompromising intelligence to their music. A typically stark charcoal sketch cover greets you as you pick the album up, a bleak image to reflect the stark nature of their music.
Christian Militia opens the proceedings, the bass carrying the work, with the guitars screaming and drums marching through the background, a goosestep of a song about the pitfalls of religion and blind faith in anything. Justins passionate cries falling on deaf ears if the last twenty years since the album was released are anything to go on.
"born again and born again blind, worshiping the devil in the name of god"
Notice me is a bass frenzy, highlighting Stuart Morrows talents, this band manage to cover a lot of musical space for a three piece band. This song in particular remenisent in ways of fellow trio The Jam.
A regular part of the set for many years to come, Smalltown England is a testiment to the fickle nature and juvenille mentality of the places that we live in. As usual the heroes and villians of the piece are those all around us, not generals or rock stars, not artists or far away places, the wet pavements and dirt of a northern town is the setting and the players are the factory workers and pub regulars of your area.
The pace changes for A Liberal Education, strange guitar distortion leads into a mellow and haunting ballad, accented with the dull crash of side toms, the song is carried through by the sheer emotion and power of the words.
The tital track follows, with its octave riff and build of power chords, a bass run does the lions share of the work, a song about revenge and justice.War crimes, drugs and a host of other topics are examined with only one answer
" I believe in justice
I believe in vengence
I believe in getting the bastard"
A confusion of guitar and bass chaos runs through sex (the Black Angel), the song stutters and grumbles along, odd beats and time signatures are thrown up, a song so strange its fascinating and highlights nicely the uncompromising nature of the band.
Running is a straight forward rock/punk anthem, straight forward by their standards at least. The album ends in typically contronversial manner with Spirit of the Falklands, an examination of nationalism and the warlike nature of patriotism. Again a theme that has become more and more poiniant since it was written.
This album is a great punk/rock album more so for its attidute and subject matter that its musical style. Its odd to know where you would place them in todays categories but if imaganitive and hard hitting bass driven rock is your thing, then this one is for you.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
4 Great Expectations
6 Christian Militia
7 Notice Me
8 Smalltown England
9 Liberal Education
11 Sex (The Black Angel)
12 Running In The Rain
13 Spirit Of The Falklands
16 No Man's Land
17 Great Expectations
18 Notice Me