New Model Army in Leeds
The New Model Army keeps touring and recording constantly for over 26 years. I remember very well their first albums. I played them so often in my turntable, back in my old home when I was collecting vinyl records and used to work in record shops. And there was a track, Side A – track 3 from the Ghost of Cain LP, which people played too many times and then had to search for a new copy all the time…
NMA is a music band not easily classified. Punk, folk, indie, gothic, even acoustic or metal forms and influences surface in their music… As this article writes, they should be recognised as “a very versatile underground cult rock band with many different musical roots.” But what makes NMA more special is their poetic lyrics, often with political and humanitarian messages. This is Here comes the war (1993):
Today, as you listen to this song
Another 394,000 children were born into this world
They break like waves of hunger and desire upon these eroded shores
Carrying the curses of history and a history yet unwritten
The oil burns in thick black columns, the buzz saws echo through the forest floor
They shout give us our fair share, give us justice
Here comes the war [..] You screamed give us Liberty or give us Death
Now you’ve got both, what do you want next ?
Here comes the war – put out the lights on the Age of Reason.
The band was recently refused entry to US and had to cancel their arranged tour. “We have been informed that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has taken precisely 20 weeks (instead of the usual 8 or 9) to DENY our I-129 Non Immigrant Visa Applications,” NMA manager Tommy Tee said in a statement. “I can only apologize on behalf of the band, as I know how much work has gone into all these shows. For our part, having spent the past four years trying to rebuild the fan base and reputation of the band in North America after a long absence, we are bitterly disappointed. ”
“We’re really puzzled by this refusal to issue visas,” frontman Justin Sullivan added. “Over the last few years, we’ve worked a lot in America, building up to this tour with a well-received album, good press and good ticket sales. And during this time we’ve encountered no problems with the authorities and have been received with courtesy and hospitality throughout the country.”
NMA has managed to sound contemporary all this time along. Take for example, the song Spirit of the Falklands from 1982. Back then, war became a useful card in the political game. Thatcher in Britain and Galtieri in Argentina send their countries to war and invested on patriotism shifting the focus from their deep internal social and economical problems. And the winner of course not only manipulated the social agenda but reversed their unpopularity…
It seems that NMA’s meaningful stance may bring to them occasional troubles, like those sudden visa problems. O tempora o mores! But it also ties together a strong and faithful audience beyond material national borders.
Yesterday, NMA played in Leeds Metropolitan University. I found a place in the front line to take photos. A brave decision!… I literally squeezed myself against the metal bars, was pushed and shoved in the rhythms of the dancing waves and the body frenzy behind me, struggled to capture some stable moments and protect my gear!
The interaction between the band and the people was very warm and alive. Justin Sullivan’s energy and body language was reflected back by almost messianic reactions of faith and joy by people in the crowd climbing on top of others to sing along.
“We never had a major hit, anywhere, and so never we felt forced to play a particular song” said Justin Sullivan at some point. But they seem to have too many loved songs to satisfy all the people, who kept calling them back after the end. And they did return twice on stage, which was great.. even if because of that I missed my last train home later on! Well, as everyone knows, the night in Leeds is always young…
It’s appropriate to close this post with another NMA video clip below. Purity was performed live two years ago in Leeds University.
[All photographs by Christos Stavrou © 2007 . All rights reserved]