After an enjoyable but relatively tame debut from 1978 and a creative leap forward with 1979's Tent, the Nits took a detour for this 1981 release, losing the casual fan along the way but gaining far more credibility and more fervent adulation from their remaining fans. New Flat is a strange album, plain and simple. Gone are the straightforward melodic hooks of their previous albums, replaced by cerebral hooks that creep up on you when you least expect it. No Beatlesque chord changes here. Oddly enough, strange strums, beats, clicks, ticks, and plenty of studio tricks have replaced them. In fact, rhythm seems to be the focus here, with many songs based around tribal-like thumps. "Zebra" has got to be one of the strangest songs this side of the Residents and it is based around a strange rhythm and distant shouted and whispered vocals and keyboards. "Office at Night" does have a tortured, Lennon-esque vocal for the verses, but the chorus has a haunting Kraftewerk-like beauty to it. "New Flat," the album opener, sounds like an early Devo outtake. Other tracks seem stripped down to their basics, then disassembled and rearranged for no apparent reason. Funny thing is, it all works brilliantly. The Nits may be artsy-fartsy, but they still know how to reel in the listener. Inside every twist and turn is a hook. It may be a small, little hook, but it makes perfect sense. There is not a sound on this album that is insignificant. Everything is perfectly in place, but it's up to the listener to find it all. Could this be the first interactive album released? Maybe not intentionally, but you never know.