What did you do during lockdown? Perfect that sourdough starter? Couch to 5k? Work, as usual, because you do something worthwhile? (We salute you!)
In the case of A New International, they whiled away the hours by searching through the big box of of scribbled on beer mats and fag packet scraps to find those songs that never quite saw the light of day. Piecing back together scraps of ideas sent to live on a farm over the twenty-odd years the band has existed.
Unlike The Monkees, not all groups live together in one big house. For some reason sweaty ill-ventilated rehearsal rooms weren’t among the list of premises allowed to remain open. Like all self-professed luddites, musicians suddenly found themselves forced to get to grips with the technology that had been at everyone’s fingertips for years and discover that – miraculously – it worked. Letting them record even at unsocial distances. This is how A New International recorded the tracks herein. The result is ‘Lost and Later Songs’; a 20-strong double album
As can only be expected from such and exercise, it’s a grab-bag of styles and ideas. But pulled to a weird coherence by being recorded as a set. Ballads to glam-stompers and back. There’s Britpop swagger in ‘Loverboy’. Star-looking gutter-sniping at ‘Ghost Lights’. The frankly (I hope) scabrous dancehall-Waits shabbalabba of ‘Boom Boom Cannonball’. ‘A Chemical Dream’ is country-flecked paean to those nights. And, mornings. ‘What Boys Do’: Such brilliantly dumb pomp that it works on every finely planned level. ‘Everything’s Alright Fine’ feels like the original version of a ballad misunderstood and bastardised by some boy band that has become a perennial Christmas hit. And, I mean that in the best way.
There’s enough here to keep you occupied exploring its various nooks and crannies for years to come. If you put a gun to my head and made me find something to be a killjoy about it’d be the cover version included. It’s not some glaring mis-step or anything. It just seems a bit pointless to these ears. But, hey, these things can only ever be subjective.
Oh yeah. And there’s ‘The Strangest Thing’. This is where that subjectivity has to give way to pure scientific objectivity. If this doesn’t stop you in your tracks and fill you with a wonder about art you thought you’d lost, your heart is deaf. Hyperbole? No.
‘Lost and Later Songs’; most certainly worth the punt.