#17: These New Puritans Have Got Your Number

(For the next ten days, I’ll be counting down the list of my 20 favorite albums of 2008. Obviously I didn’t hear every album that came out–although I did hear quite a lot of them–and obviously personal taste factors into this quite a bit, so I can tell you now that if you’re looking for gospel or metal recommendations this isn’t the list for you. But let’s not squabble, let’s just appreciate all the nice music that folks are making. I’ll be posting about two albums a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, from now until next Friday.)

#17
These New Puritans
Beat Pyramid
Domino Records


Beat Pyramid is the debut album by England’s These New Puritans. The jerky beats and shouty vocals will be familiar to fans of The Fall and Art Brut and Bloc Party, but this isn’t just a cash-in on the last eight years of the post-punk revival. Or, I don’t know, maybe it is, but at least it’s done really well.

Numerology, of all things, is the main theme running through the record, and the angry, nasal way teenaged singer Jack Barnett snottily goes on about it makes you wonder if it’s something he really cares about or whether he’s just showing off that he knows something you don’t. And don’t expect him to be bothered to sing it for you, either. That he manages to not be totally annoying about this is perhaps the group’s greatest achievement.

Behind Barnett are glitchy keyboards and noisy guitars that on first listen sound abrasive for the sake of being abrasive. Only on repeated listens can you detect any warmth, but then you notice the elegant harmonies of a song like Navigate-Colours (a song written for the 2007 Dior Homme Collection), made all the more elegant by the fact that it’s basically just Barnett talking over himself .

I’m particularly partial to the single Elvis: “I wasn’t talking ’bout that king, or hairdos,” the song starts, before getting all paranoid (“We’re being watched by experts! We’re being watched by experts!”) It ends with two meaningful “oh-eight-hundreds,” which I’m assuming means something if you know about numerology. And if you don’t, then These New Puritans will be happy to tell you that they do. It’s the closest the album comes to emotion, but refuses to get sappy about it.
Watch! These New Puritans, Swords of Truth

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