New Black

  • New Black
  • New Black (Thick) 2004 
  • Time Attack (Thick) 2005 

On the follow-up to its self-titled debut, this Chicago four-piece parties like it’s 1979, or thereabouts. Time Attack is heavy on post-punk pastiche, to be sure, but New Black’s version stands out from the work of many of its revivalist peers. Recycled nostalgia often results in a clever-but-depthless effect as artists keep a knowing distance from their material; refreshingly free of irony, however, Time Attack is the sound of a band throwing itself into its music. These songs have a hands-on, intensely industrious feel with an emphasis on choppy, angular rhythms, eccentric retro-keyboard textures and wiry, stabbing guitars. Frontwoman Patti Gran’s idiosyncratic, Lydia-Lunch-meets-Kate-Pierson vocal persona is a crucial ingredient, especially on “Khalil!” and “Big Haus,” which could be the B-52’s in dark monochrome. On the motorik Normal-esque “Devil in My Car,” she and bassist Liam Kimball engage in a spot of overlapping call-and-response that hasn’t sounded so good since Gang of Four’s “Anthrax.” The band is at its best in extremis, particularly on numbers that recapture something of No Wave’s atomized, minimalist aesthetic: with its percussive staccato guitars and its manic, telegraphic rush, the title track is a short, sharp shock of a song, the rock equivalent of poetry with all the vowels excised. Elsewhere, New Black resurrects a class-of-’77 Brit-punk sound (“Der Spook”) with slightly less engaging results. Overall, this trip down memory lane is well worth taking.

[Wilson Neate]