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These New PuritansThese New Puritans
Bush Hall, London
Monday January 25 2010



We know all about These New Puritans, right? Angular post-punk band, very Gang Of Four, very Wire, took their name from a Fall song, all staccato and shouty, the very model of a twenty-first century new wave combo. That's them.

Except, now, it's not.

These New Puritans have put themselves through a dramatic reinvention, more radical even than The Horrors, whose transformation from comedy gothabillies to post-artrock groovers unexpectedly made them a band worth taking seriously. These New Puritans didn't have quite such a mountain to climb, being very well-received in their earlier incarnation. But with umpteen bands doing the staccato post-punk thing, it clearly wasn't a bad idea to push off somewhere else, musically.

The band that has emerged from the shift is a world away from the crash-and-bash post-punkers I first saw supporting The Violets at the Old Blue Last in 2005. Now, These New Puritans have gone...well, where? Neo-classical? Art-soundtrack? Ambient-beat mash-up? They've certainly gone somewhere. Tonight, there's a brass and woodwind section on stage, and a giant gong behind the drum kit. Post-punk, it seems, has taken a powder.

Endearingly, the three lads in These New Puritans (keyboard player Sophie Sleigh-Johnston is temporarily absent) still look like youthful, skinny, new wave geeks, even if they're now surrounded by musicians and hardware that suggests their ambitions have definitely expanded. But does it work? Tonight, amid the Victorian wedding cake plasterwork of Bush Hall, we'll find out.

These New PuritansThe wind section brews up a rising storm, like a mistral sweeping in from the plains. The drums come thundering in - this new music is heavily percussive, poundingly rhythmic, with other instruments essentially employed to add colour. On vocals and guitar - looking like an incongruous nod to ye olde rock 'n' roll in a setting that is emphatically not rock 'n' roll - Jack Barnett is a curiously self-effacing frontman, sometimes simply standing there and letting the music billow around him. When - occasionally - he makes a grand gesture, such as raising his arm in an incongruous burst of showbiz, it almost comes as a shock.

It's George Barnett, on drums, who really poewers things along, controlling the thunder and atmosphere that are the two key ingredients of These New Puritans' new sound. At the back of it all, Thomas Hein busies himself with a keyboard and an array of chains hung up as a percussion kit, interjecting sweeps and swooshes and metallic detail. With little in the way of conventional rock band visual cues, without any of the shape-throwing and grandstanding that normally goes with a rock show, it's as if the music just happens - emanating from who knows where, while the band simply try to channel it.

I suppose, if it's comparisons you want, These New Puritans could possibly be placed in the zone occupied by Public Image Limited (circa The Flowers Of Romance - an album upon which Pil, like TNP, eschewed rock instrumentation in favour of beats and ambiences) and Enisturzende Neubauten, at their most un-rock 'n' roll.

The band's sudden tangent, their wayward swerve off the post-punk path and onto the neo-classical lawn, churning up the neatly trimmed grass as they go, is a bold move - although I wonder how successful they would've been if they hadn't established an audience first with their more conventional post-punky incarnation. But yes, the swerve is successful. These New Puritans' new music does work. Whatever it is.

These New Puritans:
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For more photos from this gig, find These New Puritans by name here.

These New Puritans

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Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson. Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston.
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