As I spin Beat Pyramid by These New Puritans for the fifth time in a few hours, I begin to wonder, how much longer can post-punk be mined? The genre’s calling cards: high bass lines, Morse code riffs, automated drums and singers who squawk out oblique lyrics like morose birds, have been recycled over and over, leaving very little to be explored. That’s hasn’t stopped bands from trying though.
Even if you’ve never heard These New Puritans, you’ll swear you’ve heard the band’s music before. They have the (not so) unique ability to make you believe that they are a weird second-coming of Wire crossed with Gang of Four crossed with The Fall with just a smidgen of Kraftwerk thrown in for good measure. And that’s where the band’s debut album, Beat Pyramid, ultimately fails.
These New Puritans is a really great finer point’s band, there’s just enough screeching guitar, rapid fire vocals, and shreds of electronica to make Beat Pyramid a solid album, but not enough originality to make those Wire records unnecessary.
When the band is stirring their pot of influences well, like on the slow-building “Numerology (AKA Numbers),” with it’s Pixies-esque number as metaphor message, the clarion call (“I am an island”) of album highlight “Swords of Truth,” and the war drum-sound of “Infinity Ytinifni,” they can stand alongside some of their best post-punk revival peers as advancers of the genre.
But on a large section of the rest of the album, the band merely sounds like the best post-punk karaoke act around, paying particular attention to ensure that they sound as “authentic” as possible. “Colours,” “En Papier,” and the (literally) one note “Elvis” are oblique and jilting for the sake of being so, and “Costume,” the closest the band gets to a ballad, is a hodgepodge of sounds that sound like samples from “Closer.”
As far as post-punk revivalists go, you could do a lot worse than These New Puritans (ahem, Kasabian, British Sea Power, Hard-Fi), and there’s still plenty of bits on Beat Pyramid you’ll find exhilarating. But the rest of the time, you’ll find yourself wishing These New Puritans would ascend above its well-established reference points.
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