Filmed during a three-night stand in London last December and featured on YouTube last month, Lives at Bush Hall It’s not your typical concert documentary. At Bush Hall, the Black Country, New Road went from being England’s liveliest indie band to becoming the country’s most irreverent dinner-theater act, organizing each night around a fake game concept, complete with costumes, DIY stage props and souvenir shows. detailing imaginary plot synopses set on a farm, an Italian restaurant, and a high school dance, respectively. But even if Lives at Bush Hall not intended to be the next official entry in its canon, the accompanying soundtrack album certainly earns the right to be considered as such. Despite the occasional onstage banter that makes no sense without the movie (“Happy prom night!”), Lives at Bush Hall it’s as cohesive a statement as any record in the band’s discography.
Where the glorious peaks at ants up there had to be earned: you don’t get to experience the rousing chorus of “Snow Globes” without first making the five-minute hike up the mountain to get there: this iteration of Black Country, New Road goes straight for joy, opening the shows with a celebratory tribute track to themselves, the aptly titled “Up Song”. As Evans squawks a sax melody that sounds like “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” played in a school recital, the band unleash a torrent of old-fashioned, wild, piano-driven rock’n’roll, culminating in ecstasy. group hug from a chorus: “Look what we did together!/BC,NR friends forever!” But within that cheeky chorus is a serious reaffirmation, a blood pact, of the group’s unwavering camaraderie. “Up Song” is more than a curtain ready to go up; it’s proof that a band can, in a matter of months, lose its most integral member, reassign musical roles, struggle to write an entirely new set list (all while fiddler Georgia Ellery resisted the strong gravitational pull of her other band , equally noteworthy Jockstrap), and come out with a completely revitalized sound.
None of the newly anointed vocalists of Black Country, New Road can match Wood’s natural seriousness, nor do they try to. But each singer subtly creates a distinct personality that helps propel BC,NR both to dizzying new heights and devastating new depths. Where Wood might invert pop culture references with the metaphorical weight of scripture, the message and delivery here is more matter-of-fact and heartfelt. Hyde recounts the push and pull of a toxic relationship on “I Won’t Always Love You,” his deadpan tone transforming the song into a post-rock cabaret piece, while the soulful, vibrant “Laughing Song” is as vulnerable and tender as a fresh bruise, with Hyde not only praising a failed relationship but also admitting his own self-sabotaging role in its demise. Evans, by contrast, plays the lovesick fool in “Across the Pond Friend,” a swashbuckling serenade detailing those rare weekend getaways when long-distance relationships turn into real-life couples, where even the most mundane activities (“On our last night/We watched a movie and she cried”) feel like small miracles.