New Model Army

Vengeance

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    7
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AllMusic Review by

This Bradford trio really came out sporting for a fight on this eight-song 1984 debut, Vengeance, after four years of constant gigging and a couple of singles ("Bittersweet" and the classic "Great Expectations"). (The five songs from these singles were in turn added to the front of the CD reissue, along with three more from the post-LP third single, "The Price," inserted at the end.) Singer/guitarist Justin Sullivan's (aka Slade the Leveller) call-it-like-it-is-historically "Christian Militia" wasn't going to make him any friends down at the local vicar; the scathing anti-Falklands War sneer "Spirit of the Falklands" peed all over their country's brand new military triumph; the vigilante-flirting title track trod on both dangerous and controversial ground. But this sort of "you're going to have to confront this stuff" unyielding conviction remains all the more refreshing in an era where young bands try their hardest to say nothing about social issues (it isn't cool). And the anti-narcotics, anti small-town myopia, anti-empty-celebrityhood, and anti-self-indulgence words are riddled with a contrasting caring humanity. In short, it's one thing to protest, it's another to also want something better for others. That human touch is suffused through "Betcha," which is about frustrating miscommunication between lovers, and the well-stated disquiet of those whose lives seem suffocated in ordinariness on "Notice Me" and "Small Town England." Besides the words, Sullivan was already a supreme tunesmith and compelling singer to match the oratory, and original bassist Stuart Morrow is truly an acrobat. His fingers work overtime on what could only be described as lead playing, teamed with that bull of a drummer, gentle-giant sledgehammer Rob Heaton, as Sullivan keeps his own guitar minimal to give space to his outrageously busy rhythm section. It makes for outstanding post-punk, some of the best the genre ever produced, a style continued through the next two LPs after signing to major EMI.

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