These New Puritans

With credentials that include a song commissioned for ex Dior Homme head designer Hedi Slimane, and a sound that is more or less archetypal “post punk” ie. lefty leanings, obtuse lyrics, and a diverse sonic palette (Wire are rightfully name checked in an overwhelming number of reviews) it would be easy to dismiss British four-piece These New Puritans as all style and no substance. Thankfully for them, they escape any such criticism. Just.

At first glance they are quintessentially English. Their eclectic brand of post punk can be construed as quasi political, yet almost always retains some sort of lyrical ambiguity this is, above all else, what I find so damn irritating about TNP. Cryptic lines are repetitively shouted like slogans and for all their references to numerology, the colour spectrum and images of the occult, the meaning, what it is they are actually saying, gets lost in the static. It almost seems that by obscuring what they stand for they escape any thematic criticism, retain their relevance and stay ahead of the cultural curve. By being enigmatic they stay cool by default. But these delusions of grandeur, these larger than life songs don’t stand to benefit from aloofness, if anything they are screaming for the opposite. Ownership and conviction. But I guess that’s just not in the post-punk manual.

Their debut long-player “Beat Pyramid” eschews anything trendy in music today favouring stylistic expression over listenability, and for this they should be commended. Their more accessible cuts such as “Elvis” and “Navigate-Colours” sound like the top 40 hits of the year 4000, mixing contemporary sonic manipulation (loops and synths) with an unshakably eerie darkness. I would almost call it “sci-fi pagan” as disparate and wanky as that sounds. Put simply these are inventive, deeply powerful, and darkly inflective songs that have captured the imaginations of the indie art punks and the nouveau-goth Gareth Pugh set with equal aplomb.

For all the mathematical allusions on this album, the equation is simple. Electronic loops coalesce with staccato guitars and tribal drums – chaos ensues. All the while lyrics are chanted until they become mantras. Posturing aside, this is compelling stuff; other worldly, completely current and boldly non-conformist. All style and no substance?

What’s wrong with delivering on both?

Oh I almost forgot, they are coming to Australia…

Tuesday August 12
Oxford Art Factory (Sydney)

Thursday August 14
The Prince Bandroom (Melbourne)