With life weighing heavy on their shoulders – Brooklyn new wave revivalists Nation Of Language are making sense of their lives through irresistible gloom-pop. A cloud of emotional uncertainty lurks over their blissed-out debut album, a key factor in what makes this band just so genuine.
This trio have been bubbling away on the NYC scene for a few years now, but opener ‘Tournament’ quickly hints we’re in for something profound. A dense synth jitters away underneath the sombre voice of Ian Devaney – conveying a deep yearning through giddy eighties vibes, layered with lines like “I took the long road home and it never paid off for me / but to feel the proof / as I’m walking around the city in a torrent of rain”. You’re immediately embroiled in a confused heartache.
Their influences are expansive and worn proudly throughout this debut. It doesn’t take long to spot the obvious ones, perhaps the most telling comes as the stark voice of The National‘s baritone singer Matt Berninger, which is dotted throughout. Elsewhere you’ve got elements of eighties pop royalty, be it the OMD synths on the rousing ‘Automobile’, Japan-like bass flourishes on ‘Sacred Tongue’ or even strong Kraftwerk progressions with ‘The Motorist’. But the album doesn’t dwell on such cultural touchstones – this is still a sound of today, proven with the sunset pop of ‘September’, dispatching a more upbeat and glossy euphoric tone.
The interlocking synths and electronic drums continue with palpable emotion throughout. “Crush my love leave it there / curse the heart, causing it / I can always find you sitting there with your second-hand malaise” Devaney sings on ‘Rush and Fever’, keeping you tangled up in their brutal, sardonic melancholy as he continues starkly, “I remember when you could find the time.”
The album moves with purpose and poise – ‘Division Street’ is built upon keys that could easily belong to New Order‘s ‘Power Corruption And Lies’, while the drum-kicks and guitars of the following ‘Indignities’ delve deeper into early Joy Division territory. It’s refreshing just how vivid and well-executed these influences are though – at no point do they risk becoming merely a pastiche of years gone by.
The band have said in the run-up to this album that their formation was sparked by a period of personal awakening around early new wave – and they’ve executed that blueprint with unerring elegance here. This is thrilling, riveting and ambitious. By drawing heavily on some of the masters in the game and executing those styles with beauty and ease – Nation Of Language have unearthed a vibrant space of their own.
- Release date: May 22
- Record label: Self-released