These New Puritans Beat Pyramid

[Angular/Domino; 2008]

Styles: overheated electronic/rock that was supposed to be left behind in 1997
Others: Bloc Party, The Fall (not really)

For emerging acts with debut albums in tow, it’s a practical death knell to be compared to The Fall; just ask Pavement (only kidding). Such is the plight that the scrappy, confused youngsters in These New Puritans face. On the strength of early singles and (ugh) internet buzz – not to mention lead vocalist Jack Barnett’s dry British speak-sing affectation – TNP have drawn comparisons to Those Who Must Not Be Compared To (you guessed it, The Fall).

By now, we all know how these things go; as such, it’s unsurprising that on Beat Pyramid, These New Puritans’ debut event, The Fall comparisons don’t hold much water. If anything, maybe one could draw a line between TNP’s drum-machine-heavy style and the dismal late-’90s electronica-flirting in which Mark E. Smith and foes engaged themselves; beyond that, the road of similarities hits a dead end.

Instead, the general laziness of Beat Pyramid reveals a more modern influence: that of Essex Britpopsters Bloc Party. Barnett’s over-histrionic vocals on “Mkk3” and “Elvis” resemble Kele Okereke’s coked-up melancholia, while the songwriting seems to favor the sort of dull anthemic choruses existent on Bloc Party’s immensely overrated Silent Alarm. Cast upon this backdrop, TNP’s numerology-obsessed lyrics and faux-antagonistic posturing on the staid “Numerology (Aka Numbers)” and nu-rave-up “C. 16th ±” come off as mere juvenile delinquency, rather than total anarchy.

Pyramid’s grey pop schizophrenia is ultimately the chink in TNP’s armor; there are, however, fleeting moments of textural brilliance. The jumpy backbeats on “Colours” and “C. 16th ±” provide the sort of unmitigated excitement one could imagine the group was aiming for. Ultimately, Beat Pyramid is strongest when the group reveals a tempered mixture of sonic uncertainty and sinister attitude, as on album highlights “Swords of Truth” and “Doppelganger.” Maybe if These New Puritans learned to play to their strengths rather than to the charts, they’d be more appealing to those who truly love The Fall. Not Mark E. Smith, though – he doesn’t like anything.

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