When These New Puritans emerged in the latter part of the ’00s, their bone-snapping dynamics were their greatest asset. A wilfully obtuse outlier to indie’s simpler excesses, the group were unashamed in their shock factor. Over the years, they’ve sanded down those edges, subsequent records shifting their focus ever-closer to that of a classically-influenced, baroque pop outfit – one more interested in twisting the rulebook’s spine than shredding the whole thing and eating the confetti that ensues.
The journey to this fourth record has been a slow one (it’s been six years since their previous album, ‘Field Of Reeds’) and ‘Inside The Rose’ is similarly unhurried. A funereal march stalks the whole record. Through even the incessant pinging of the appropriately titled ‘Infinity Vibraphones’, or the crooning, classical ‘Where The Trees Are On Fire’, there’s no break in the twisting, low-hanging cloud of doomy darkwave.
There’s a gothic tint to These New Puritans’ take on pop, but like a sub-par Depeche Mode, it’s entirely lacking in brightness or brilliance. ‘A-R-P’ does a valiant effort of injecting some life, its Hanz Zimmer stomp coming off like thunder illuminating that aforementioned cloudy sky, but at near seven-minutes, even that struggles to withstand its duration. “Isn’t life a funny thing? / All these words and they say nothing,” they muse on ‘Beyond Black Suns’ – the same could be said of the record that surrounds it, packed full of sound, but offering very little to connect with.
There’s something to be said for These New Puritans’ ability to conjure such an all-consuming world – one which is so dense and claustrophobic it feels inescapable. Less impressive, though, is the way you long to escape that claustrophobia. A slow slog through a murky alternate dimension, from a band who made their name on vibrancy and experimentation, ‘Inside The Rose’ is frustratingly lacking in both.