The band that could only have been English, steeped as they were in history hundreds of years old, both lauded and derided for their almost fashionably unfashionable clothes and stance, began the '90s with a provocative piece of work. Hailed by some as the heirs to the Clash's mantle, yet apparently out of step with many of their supposed contemporaries in what was the goth movement, the band foraged ahead with music that was individual, confrontational, and intense. Their sound was marked by the use acoustic guitar and a single electric guitar without any major effects. The radio chatter of the police reporting on a shooting in Australia, the reflections of the astronaut Thomas Stafford, intoned by punk poetess Joolz (designer of the band's artwork), heralded a new decade of millennial visions from the band. Combined with dark ruminations on the fall of the Iron Curtain, the rise of the drug-fueled rave culture, and the continuing musical accompaniment to James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis (the earth as a living organism, which will outlast humankind!), New Model Army was back with a vengeance. Musically the album is uplifting, less folksy than the preceding year's Thunder and Consolation. "Eleven Years" is an elevating stab at a love song, complete with semi-flamenco guitar flourishes. "Before I Get Old" is an ode to the quest for personal fulfillment and ambition of almost archetypal proportions. The human heart in the album is emotional and strong, yet the recurrent New Model Army bitterness is there to add flavor to the concoction. Even the song of nominal redemption and forgiveness, "Bury the Hatchet" is completed with a barely audible "last laugh" following the supposed laying down of the vendetta. The subtle shift in emphasis, was also evident in the album artwork, this time abandoning the strict black, white, and red palatte that had been such a distinctive part of the band's presentation. Very few acts have enjoyed more sympathetic visual representation, and the change hinted at the band stretching their horizons.
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AllMusic Review by Michael M. Murphy