New Model Army – one of the most influential bands in late 20th Century British rock music – have never been bound by musical genres. Formed in 1980, the band from Bradford were initially influenced by punk rock and northern soul, but over time drew from folk, metal, R&B, hip-hop and classical music to make something totally unique and unclassifiable.
“Carnival” was first released in September 2005, 25 years into New Model Army’s career.
“In the long history of New Model Army, it is the albums made between 2000-2009 that are usually the least feted.”, says band leader Justin Sullivan. “It was a strange period for us. Partly we were finding our feet after the departure (and later passing) of Robert (Heaton) and still absorbing the lessons of the long, costly, and less than satisfying ‘Strange Brotherhood’ era of the mid ‘90s. ‘Eight’ (released in 2000) was a simple reaction to the latter, a ‘primitive’ album, really just a set of demos, put together quickly by Michael (Dean), Dean (White) and myself. ‘Carnival’ was a different kind of project, ambitiously conceived as a swirling, eclectic fairground of sound as my new creative partnership with Michael began to develop, and with an endless stream of ideas from Nelson, Dean and Dave (Blomberg) being thrown into the mix.
We perhaps chose the wrong producer in Chris Tsangarides, who was not cut out to control and steer the chaos around him; and things were made more complicated by the frequent absence of Nelson and Dave (who was in the process of leaving the band for family reasons). We always felt that this was the one album where the recording, mixing and mastering didn’t bring the end result close to what we had originally intended. So, when earMUSIC declared their interest in licensing and reissuing the album, we discovered four associated tracks (B-sides and unreleased songs) to add to it and saw an opportunity to ‘reimagine’ the album as a whole.”
The band found all the original recordings and gave them to Lee Smith, co-producer and mixer of their recent albums, including last year’s “From Here” (their highest charting album ever, in both Germany and the UK) and “Carnival” has been reborn with a sound that is far sharper and more powerful and cohesive than the original.
The album still begins with a birth (‘Water’ leads with the ultrasound of Michael’s first son) and ends with a death in ‘Fireworks Night’ – a heartfelt and emotionally tangled tribute to Robert Heaton, who had left the band for health reasons in 1998 and died in November 2004, during the making of the record; but the running order has been altered to enhance the flow of the new dynamics and four newly added songs. ‘Rumour and Rapture 1650’ was originally written by Sullivan for the theatrical tour of “Freeborn John”, Rev Hammer’s English Civil War concept album, and tells the story of a disillusioned Parliamentarian soldier at the end of the war. ‘Caslen (Christmas)’ was originally a Nelson acoustic guitar instrumental but here has added words. ‘One Bullet’ and ‘Stoned, Fired and Full of Grace’ were previously known as live acoustic tracks but these are previously unreleased full-band versions.
Elsewhere the band cover their customary eclectic subject matter: the explosive ‘Red Earth’ inspired by their 2004 visit to South Africa, an early study of the refugee crisis in the hip-hop influenced ‘Another Imperial Day’ and the 2001 Bradford Riots told from the unusual point of view of an exhausted policeman (‘Carlisle Road’) and a wealth of musical invention from the orchestral strangeness of ‘Bluebeat’, fully realised at last, to the pounding rhythms of ‘Too Close to the Sun’, ‘BD3’ and ‘Island’.
And, in the spirit of this re-invention, the band’s regular artist, Joolz Denby, has reimagined the cover art of the 2005 album in a wholly original version.
“We are aware that it is very dangerous for a band to ‘go back’”, says Sullivan, “so we made one absolute rule, that we wouldn’t re-record anything and we’d ask Lee to remix it using only the original multi-tracks, without too much involvement from us. Some songs have changed very little, others quite a lot. And to our minds, this has worked well and has enhanced the album’s principle qualities, particularly the wealth of original musical ideas, at last arranged in a sonically satisfying way. We hope you enjoy it.”
The album will become available on November 20th, 2020 as a Limited CD Hardcover Media Book Edition as well as for the first time ever on vinyl – as a Strictly Limited Heavyweight Double LP Gatefold Edition on White Vinyl.
Both Limited Editions can be pre-ordered here: https://newmodelarmy.lnk.to/carnival_redux
These limited editions will be followed by a CD Digipak Edition as well as a Heavyweight Double LP Gatefold Edition on black vinyl once limited editions are sold out.
- RUMOUR & RAPTURE (1650)
- RED EARTH
- CARLISLE ROAD
- ONE BULLET
- TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN
- ANOTHER IMPERIAL DAY
- PRAYER FLAGS
- STONED, FIRED, FULL OF GRACE
- CASLEN (CHRISTMAS)
- FIREWORKS NIGHT