Beats Make Doom Sound Fun
It’s all about the rhythm with These New Puritans. Head honcho Jack Barnett, responsible for songwriting, vocals, and production, claims Wu-Tang Clan as a hearty influence on his band’s sound. Good thing New York’s grimiest hip-hop titans made their way across the ocean, as the beats presented on These New Puritans’ second LP Hidden are merciless. In fact, Barnett (whose twin brother, George, provides live drumming) has said he intends there to be refrains in his records, both individually and as a discography. And if there’s one refrain it’s percussion, both synthetic and physical.
You don’t get the full force of the drums until “We Want War,” a stellar and awe-inspiring seven-minute opus that prominently features heavy, martial drumming. The first single off of Hidden, it’s also accompanied by a visually flawless video directed by Daniel Askill. Its stylish take on ballistics footage hearkens back to TNP’s connection to fashion: The group produced the soundtrack to legendary fashion designer Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme show in 2007.
It all makes sense, as this record would accompany a runway show perfectly. It’s dramatic and moody, it’s pop music meets dancehall, it’s grime meets post-punk revival, it’s catchy and above all, it’s got a great beat. The foursome incorporate many disparate elements; in most moments this works seamlessly but it sometimes feels a little forced, as if its trying to be trendy. The tribalism of Animal Collective has leaked into many burgeoning rock bands, and while giant Japanese drums pounded to dark perfection are infectious, it’s not enough to carry an entire record.
“Attack Music” and “Fire – Power” are catchy in their chanting repetition and “Hologram” surprises with delicacy. It’s not all beats—These New Puritans employ choral arrangements and tickled pianos here and there. But to be clear, this record will more easily win over fans of Nine Inch Nails and Liars, and there’s definitely going to be a new army of devotees emerging as a result of Hidden. It’s the most attractive record the band could have possibly put out at this moment in time. But will it be the greatest of the year, or of their career? Probably not.