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New Model Army (live at The Forum)

London 11 December 2015

“And you could be there…”

Zoom in. You’re down the front at The Forum. New Model Army are playing up a storm, and Justin Sullivan has put you right in the head of a religious extremist. They started with the never-more-appropriate-than-right-now-when-we’ve-just-started-bombing-in-Syria “Bloodsports”, a song which in itself encapsulates the endless War On Terror, from the packing of bullets to the bombing raids and slaughter to the impact on personal and community relations back home in the space of three minutes. They let it form a state-of-the-world triptych with angry classic “Christian Militia” at its centrepiece, rounded off by “Breathing”, an intimate glimpse into the mind of a terrorist atrocity survivor. As a statement of intent, it’s powerfully intense. As the opening to a rock show, it kicks ass. Zoom out. Take a breath.

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New Model Army (live at Camden Rocks)

New Model Army live at Camden Rocks 2015 (Picture: Kyle Perfect)The Jazz Café, London 30 May 2015

A couple of years ago I had the very great pleasure of interviewing New Model Army‘s angry yet affable front man Justin Sullivan for this esteemed organ (matron!), and we got to talking about venue sizes. “All of us”, said he, “when we go to see our favourite bands, we want to see them in the old Marquee, or in some 400-capacity venue”, and I felt sad that the days of seeing the Army at the old Marquee were long gone. And now here I am tonight, watching them in Camden’s “compact and bijou” Jazz Cafá, which apparently only holds 300, and that’s even BETTER!

They’re playing as part of the day-long Camden Rocks festival,

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Bearded Theory festival 2013

Mark Chadwick of The Levellers at Bearded TheoryKedleston Hall, Derbyshire 17-19 May 2013

Bearded Theory is, pretty much by definition, a party that got out of hand. It started out as a birthday bash, and is now in its sixth year as a music festival. Somewhere in among this tangled web of history is an obsession with beards, and on the Sunday they have an attempt at the world record for the most fake beards gathered in one place. Which is… definitely a thing. It’s also a sign that it doesn’t take itself too seriously – although everything’s handled incredibly professionally and there are few problems, there’s never a sense that anyone, including organisers and security, aren’t actually enjoying themselves at the same time.

Friday

New Model 

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An interview with Justin Sullivan

Justin Sullivan (Photo via NMA)OK, so I’m interviewing Justin Sullivan of New Model Army and I’m shitting myself; one of the finest living British songwriters, veteran of a 30-plus-years of playing kick-ass protest rock’n’roll, a man who’s played more good gigs than I’ve had bad ideas… no, this won’t be awkward at all. But I’d be a dumbass to pass up the opportunity – and I’ve seen interviews where he’s been very patient with people even more inept than me – so here goes! I dial.

And here he is! Talking! In person! And he’s a very agreeable chap. He very kindly takes a break from compiling vocals on the forthcoming new album (of which more later) to talk to me about, among other things, “something that happened 73 years ago or whenever it

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New Model Army – Vengeance: The Whole Story 1980-1984

Attack Attack

Vengeance: The Whole Story1979. A young snot-nosed punk steps up to a microphone, shouts “GO!” and a national treasure is born. The punk is Justin Sullivan, New Model Army the national treasure, and the “GO!” the unleashing of the hounds which heralds “Christian Militia,” the opening track on their classic mini-album Vengeance.

2013, and Vengeance is back (has been since the end of 2012, in fact) and it’s now over four times longer. So it’s… kind of back with three Vengeances. Take that, Bruce Willis! And it’s amazing how fresh it sounds, and how the songs still work today. Those strained, impassioned vocals, those part-moshpit, part-parade ground drums (courtesy of the late Robb Heaton) calling to mind the dancefloor as much as the squat party, and those awesome, looping bass

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New Model Army (live)

The Forum, London 17 December 2009

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the Forum, not a creature was stirring apart from that seething, thronging mass of goths, punks, crusties and beardy CAMRA-men that only New Model Army seem to be able to unite into one celebratory whole. And they’ve been doing it for a while now. Next year sees their thirtieth anniversary tour… this year makes it two whole decades since I first became a fan, with a storming set at Reading Festival while touring Thunder And Consolation.

I have to admit, I’ve been living under a rock for a while and had somehow missed the release of the new album, though on the strength of tonight’s airing of most of it, it’s gonna be bloody good when I get round to hearing it. They’re certainly not resting on their laurels, even though they’ve earned them

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