Before they were widely tipped as one of London’s most exciting new post-punk bands, Bar Italia spent years patiently grafting. The trio, consisting of Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi and Sam Fenton, put out multiple releases via Dean Blunt’s avant-garde World Music label, including their debut LP ‘Quarrel’ and follow-up EP ‘Angelica Pilled’ in 2020. Second album ‘Bedhead’ swiftly followed in early 2021, before they then shared three standalone singles (‘Banks’, ‘Miracle Crush’ and ‘Polly Armour’) in 2022.
This prolific streak steadily raised the current fanfare that surrounds their percussive yet pensive post-punk, eventually leading to a string of sold-out gigs, worldwide tours and a deal with Matador Records (home to the likes of Pavement, Julien Baker and Snail Mail). It’s an impressive feat, especially when you consider the layers of mystique Bar Italia have intentionally conjured during their rise: from issuing dim and grainy publicity photos to their Microsoft Paint-aided show flyers, they’ve also actively avoided giving any interviews during their emergence.
Despite this reticence, the London trio now seem to have their sights set on making their reintroduction with ‘Tracey Denim’. Recorded and produced by the band themselves with mixing from Marta Salogni (Björk, Black Midi, M.I.A.), their third album should be enough to shift to one side those hasty (albeit somewhat justified) comparisons to The Cure and Joy Division, ensuring that Bar Italia make a lasting impression that’s all of their own making.
‘Nurse!’, the album’s hypnotic lead single, is a swaggering and devastatingly cool track that quickens and slows without warning, aided by jangly guitars and the buzzing yet delightful distortion that brings it to a close. Fenton may be singing “haven’t felt this way since you were 21” in the direction of a love interest, but the lyric also applies to the feeling you get when hearing something that’s quite as invigorating as this.
On ‘Punkt’, Bar Italia take their listeners on an imaginative jaunt soundtracked by erratic guitars; its spoken word lyrics culminating with Cristante’s infectious repetitive proclamation “I don’t owe you an explanation / I just want to lose control”. The rapid ‘Friends’ particularly highlights the band’s production prowess by fusing together elements of warped and pulsating punk with a melodic pop delivery, while ‘Maddington’ closes the album with lush layering and gentle singing that lures the listener in while creating a wall of sound all around. It works as a perfect bookend for the collection, shining a bright light on the trio’s experimental edge.
The 15 impressively arranged tracks on ‘Tracey Denim’ will only bolster Bar Italia’s discography to date, ushering them, whether they like it or not, even further into the spotlight.
- Release date: May 19
- Record label: Matador