Shea's Demesne


I Don't Like Ants From Up There and I Don't Want to Listen to it Anymore

20 February 2022

Black Country, New Road released the album Ants From Up There on 4 February, 2022. As at the time of writing, it sits at a rating of 4.07/5.00 on, making it, according to RYM's users, the #139 greatest album of all time, beating out albums such as Another Green World by Brian Eno, Music for 18 Musicians composed by Steve Reich and performed by the Steve Reich Ensemble, Blue by Joni Mitchell, Speaking in Tongues by Talking Heads -- this is just at a quick glance, the list could go on really. How this could possibly be can, in my mind, only be explained by some sort of extreme astroturfing or by marketing psyops (not really, but maybe). I myself have listened to the album four times. I don't like the album and I don't want to listen to it anymore.

Let me just start off with the opening track, "Intro". In fact, this song might account for a good deal of my prejudice against the album on its own. It's a poor attempt at a Philip Glass pastiche; poor both in execution and in the fact that it is less of an imitation and more of a (I swear to you) ripoff of parts of Music in Twelve Parts (for my ears, it sounds very similar to Part 11, but slowed down). In any case, from the get-go, you get the impression that Black Country, New Road wished not to express themselves, but to express how clever they are. I can't figure out why else they'd bother to include such a lazy attempt at minimalism as an "Intro" to their album. Guess what, Black Country? We all listened to Philip Glass when we were 14. And anyway, Sufjan did the incorporation-of-minimalism-into-pop thing some 20-years ago, and his execution doesn't strike anyone as some pratty way to signal some real or imagined intellectual prowess. Just contrast Out Of Egypt, Into The Great Laugh Of Mankind, And I Shake The Dirt From My Sandals As I Run, which is the most charitable comparison that can be made, to anything Black Country have done and you'll see what I mean.

The rest of the album (with a few exceptions) forces the following epithets into my head: corny; tacky; boring. But foremost, the album is utterly tasteless. Black Country, New Road, so enamoured by their influences, have tried to concentrate these so much into their sound that it is grating. It's comparable to making Ribena cordial with far too little dilution: you just want to spit it out. Or, in the case of this album, your eyes roll so far into the back of your head that for a moment you worry that they may fail to ever roll back, leaving you permanently blind. Someone test these freaks for Covid, because they have absolutely no taste.

Another thing: the album seems so artificially contrived with every indie trend in the book seemingly calculated to make Pitchfork writers and fellow Zoomers absolutely tumescent. It feels market tested like a Marvel movie. What results is an affair totally devoid of any emotional impact, despite the manifest intention from Black Country that these songs are to be emotional. I feel nothing. The lyrics seem to me to juvenile and lacking tact. "Billie Eilish style" is notoriously sung several times over many songs. Oh brother, this guy stinks!

I guess it's not all bad. Basketball Shoes is good if for no other reason other than its crescendo is somewhat rewarding. I enjoy the vocal melodies in Good Will Hunting, which is unfortunately marred by the vocalist going on about "Billie Eilish style", which is impossible to ignore for me personally. Still, I won't call it a bad song. Its clear members of the band are technically proficient.

Still, I don't like the album and I don't want to listen to it anymore.