Home > Bargain > New Model Army – Great Expectations (The Singles Collection)

New Model Army – Great Expectations (The Singles Collection)

Superperfecta Recordings, 2003

I hate feeling behind the times or ignorant of something important that has occurred.  I occasionally worry that someday someone will ask me for a particular detail of a war fought or a famous person that lived and I will draw a befuddled blank.  When I picked up this record and saw that it was a singles collection of some group named New Model Army, I looked around nervously.  I, uh, have never heard of New Model Army.  I know a little more about NWA than I do about NMA.  Opening the CD case I saw a few pictures where the lead singer was shown with four different haircuts, meaning the group had been around awhile.  Unlike a previous group I reviewed, these guys looked legitimately like long term veterans.  (gulp)  Before I risked further musical cred indecency, I brought the album up to the counter and picked it up.  I refrained from saying “I love these guys” to the lady at the counter…

When I looked up the band when I got home the truth hit straight and center:  New Model Army has been around for thirty years and they’re rather big in England.  (sigh)  Well, better really, really, really late than never, right?!  Since this collection of songs range a full thirty years, one is going to hear a whole lot of fluctuation of sound.  Songs like “Great Expectations” and “The Price” sound like they’re from that big hair, bright clothes era, while “Orange Tree Roads” gives a more modern impression.  Before I get into song specifics, I will say that despite some instrumental differences the band has been quite consistent in its sound for thirty years.

Most songs on the collection are uptempo rock ‘n roll with a few slower tracks here and there.  The band really doesn’ t get all that creative when it comes to instrumentation, nor do they bother with gimmicky silences, sax solos, or any other sort of sound that diverges from their usual drive.  “Here Comes the War” is a typical song of theirs with a consistent drum tempo and rousing choruses.  Along with the band’s ability to simmer with drawn out energy, Justin Sullivan’s vocals probably serve as the strongest instrument.  When he delivers the verses he sounds resigned with hints of frustration, yet on the chorus he is shouting a call to arms.  Sullivan tends to do this throughout the entire album, preventing the listener from assuming too much of how a song will flow.

What is quickly evident about the early New Model Army songs is that they don’t have your usual light-hearted, whimsical lyrics like most eighties songs.  The “Great Expectations” song could easily be considered as a straightforward rocker from the post-punk days, but it has a real yearning about having hopes dashed due to the expectation of joining the capitalist legions.  “Green and Grey” reads as this love letter to a disgruntled man who is fed up with living in a small town and heads off to the city, only to leave his confused buddy behind in the small town.  The song “51st State” definitely rings a bit close to home, considering it appears to be about the fact that England is a little too friendly with what the United States are interested in.  Yeah, given that this song was written back in the eighties during the Reagan years with Tony Blair and 9/11 still in the future, the song’s stinging words still seem to resonate.  Just these three songs alone show that while the U.S. was feeling good about lucky stars, walking like an Egyptian, and oh Mickey you’re so fine in the eighties, these guys were bringing the serious over in England.

I found that of all the eighteen tracks on this collection, one of the songs that would make me want to hear more of New Model Army is “Orange Tree Roads”.  This song surprised me, for the song came out in 2000 and track record has it that a band tends to lose a lot of its allure the older it gets.  For instance, rarely would I even bother to listen to a Stones, Bowie or Who track now over something they did thirty years ago, for usually the recent tune sounds tepid and watered down.  However, with New Model Army’s consistency “Orange Tree Roads” sounds rather fresh and engaging as if the group was many years younger.  Though Sullivan is the last original guy left, the band still sounds like it could entertain long time fans as well as curious new listeners.

Of course, a band around this long has a website and MySpace page.  However, if you’re up for some British history as well, check out the original New Model Army.

The fact that I actually scored this album for a quarter adds to its Bargain status, but ultimately it’s a solid collection of rock tunes from a band that isn’t all that well known here in the States.  I imagine that if one were to hang around London for awhile they’d not only get a better idea of the band’s popularity but also a chance to see them live once in awhile (which would very likely be worth the time).  For those looking to explore a group that has some real history and fans behind it, put a few spins aside for New Model Army sometime.

  1. August 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Great review! And getting the cd for 25cents???????? Bargain, it’s pretty rare in it’s own right!!!!!! It took me ages to gert a copy for sensible cash over here!

  2. Pat
    August 31, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Yeah, there are a lot of real fans and friends behind….
    Great Review in deed!
    Shame you missed the 30 anniversary shows.

  3. -evan-
    August 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks guys. Yeah, catching an anniversary show would have been great. I imagine I would have had to work on my timing for a flight over to England, but any excuse to travel is always a good one. I’ll have to hope for a 35th anniversary go of it.

  4. AndyR
    October 18, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Top review, and as you say, better late than never. The 30th shows were truly amazing, but we say that about every new tour including the one that has just finished. Roll on December for the next lot (or later this month for those who cannot wait and would prefer a more acoustic experience). The one thing about this band is that they do not need to trade on past glories – we all want to hear new stuff. There are many tracks on both TIAGD and HIGH which stand heads and shoulders with some of their finest work.

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