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Members include Jason "Moose"Harris (born in 1968; group member, 1985-90), bass, guitar, keyboards; Robert "Robb" Heaton (born in 1962 in Cheshire, England), drums, vocals, guitar; Stuart Morrow (left group, 1985), bass, guitar, vocals; Peter Nelson (joined group, 1990), bass, guitar, vocals, keyboards; Justin "Slade the Leveller" Sullivan (born in 1956 to a Quaker family in Buckinghamshire, England), lead vocals, songwriting, guitar, keyboards. Addresses: Record company--EMI, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 300, Los Angeles, CA 90036, phone: (213) 692-1100. Business--New Model Army, P.O. Box 2736, Wincarton, BA8 0YF, U.K., phone: +44 (0)1274 660923. Website--New Model Army Official Website: http://www.newmodelarmy.org.
Firmly rooted in the punk era, New Model Army emerged on the British music scene in the 1980s, a period rife with governmental conservatism and civil disorder. The group's spirited, uncluttered brand of punk-folk music--often compared to the classic British rock stylings of the Clash, the Who, and Billy Bragg--spoke of subjects ranging from concern for the environment to disdain for a culture stricken with materialism and greed. New Model Army's rebel chic, anti-establishment attitude attracted a sizable and fanatically loyal following of fans who shared the band's grievances toward the decade's right-wing government policies.
This phenomenon paved the way for other like-minded groups, most notably the Levellers, named after the mid-1640s democratic political movement led by John Lilburne. "Our following is the cream of the type of people that follow bands around," insisted New Model Army's vocalist and guitarist, Justin "Slade the Leveller" Sullivan, as quoted by New Musical Express writer Amrik Rai. "They stay loyal and put themselves out for us because we've maintained from the start that we're not a fad. We haven't been hanging around in night clubs playing at pop stars, we've been around for these people ... and round and round."
Formed in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, in 1980, New Model Army outlined their objectives by naming themselves after the historical Thomas Fairfax/Oliver Cromwell revolutionary army that called for the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords. The founding members included Sullivan, born in 1956 to a Quaker family in Buckinghamshire, England; bassist and guitarist Stuart Morrow; and drummer and guitarist Robert "Robb" Heaton. At the time, citizens of Great Britain were being thrown off balance by the first blows of a conservative government headed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and New Model Army intended to stir up controversy. For instance, references to Thatcher as an "ignorant peasant," cited in the Rai article, and other such terms by Sullivan during interviews were not uncommon.
After the release of a series of singles on the independent Abstract label, New Model Army made their album debut in 1984 with Vengeance, an outright assault on Thatcherism. It included the working-class tribute "Small Town England" and the ode to lost innocence "A Liberal Education" alongside militant songs such as the title track, an angry diatribe about seeking justice, and "Spirit of the Falklands," which angered many who lost friends and family in the war in the Falkland Islands. But Sullivan, who believed in the possibility of a peaceful solution to the conflict, refused to apologize for his lyrics. "Well, if anybody told me that they found it insulting because they'd had friends or relatives killed in the war, I'd say I am very sorry but I still stand by every word of the song," he said to Melody Maker's Barry McIlheney. "Because the song is, in fact, in sympathy with the people who died, not an insult to them. It's a straight political song against the politicians who sent those young guys out there. And I don't think that all war is wrong, just that particular one was bloody stupid. I'm not a pacifist by any means."
Also in 1984, New Model Army enjoyed a surprise number-two British independent chart hit with the single "The Price," leading to an unlikely relationship with the major label EMI. With Jason "Moose" Harris taking over the bass position, the band returned with the albums No Rest for the Wicked and The Ghost of Cain, released in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Because of an increased recording budget, New Model Army were able to explore a more experimental, though no less impassioned, musical direction. On both records, the band opted for a more lush, folk-influenced sound, resulting in a wider audience for the group. Beginning in 1985 with the single "No Rest," which climbed to number 28 on the British singles chart, the group went on to claim an impressive run of hits through 1991.
Despite the popular success, New Model Army never softened their stance for commercial benefit. In addition to their often argumentative lyrics, the band welcomed confrontation, as when they wore T-shirts for the Top of the Pops television program bearing the slogan "Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin" to express their anti-drug stance. "Drugs reflect a failing in your own self to cope," Sullivan explained to Rai. "I'd rather have a good game of football if something's weighing on my mind. I don't need to escape and drugs are escapism, pure and simple." The television stint was met with ridicule from some traditional punk-rockers, including the band Conflict, who fought back with their own motto: "Only Stupid Bastards Help EMI."
In 1989, following the 1988 release of Radio Sessions, New Model Army returned with the emotional and majestic Thunder and Consolation. Here, according to critics, the band achieved a perfect balance between the personal and political with memorable tracks such as the all-out rage "Stupid Questions" and the violin-laden "Vagabonds." Thereafter, Harris left the group and was replaced by former Brotherhood of Lizards bassist Peter Nelson. The stabilized trio then entered the studio to record the tough 1990 album Impurity. The following year saw the release of the double-live set Raw Melody Men, the title an anagram of the group's name.
A compromise between rawness and clarity and addressing social issues as well as love and loss, The Love of Hopeless Causes followed in 1993 on Epic Records. Featuring the blasting single "Here Comes the War," the ballad "Living in the Rose," and the acoustic number "These Words," the album garnered favorable reviews, as did the 1994 collection B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks. That same year, New Model Army also reworked the dance version of "Vengeance," issued in protest of Britain's Criminal Justice Bill.
For several years thereafter, New Model Army was seen only occasionally playing the odd show, and many assumed they had disbanded. However, the group reconvened for 1998's Strange Brotherhood, showing themselves still in the business of rebellion. Although more relaxed than previous efforts, the album, released on Eagle Records, received praises for its poignant lyrics and rousing choruses. In 2000, New Model Army released Eight, featuring the live favorite "Snelsmore Wood" and the radio hit "You Weren't There." History: The Best of New Model Army, containing the group's early singles, was issued by EMI in 2001.
by Laura Hightower
New Model Army's Career
Group formed in Bradford, Yorkshire, England, 1980; released full-length debut Vengeance, single "The Price" reached number two on U.K. independent chart, 1984; "No Rest" climbed to number 28 on U.K. singles chart, 1985; released Thunder and Consolation, 1989; released Raw Melody Men, 1991; released The Love of Hopeless Causes, 1993; after a prolonged absence, released Strange Brotherhood, 1998; released Eight, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Vengeance Abstract, 1984.
- No Rest for the Wicked EMI, 1985.
- The Ghost of Cain EMI, 1986.
- Radio Sessions Abstract, 1988.
- Thunder and Consolation EMI, 1989.
- Impurity EMI, 1990.
- Raw Melody Men EMI, 1991.
- History: The Singles 85-91 EMI, 1992.
- The Love of Hopeless Causes Epic, 1993.
- BBC Radio One Live in Concert Windsong, 1993.
- B-Sides and Abandoned Tracks EMI, 1994.
- Strange Brotherhood Eagle, 1998.
- All of This: Live Rarities EMI, 1999.
- Eight Trade, 2000.
- History: The Best of New Model Army EMI, 2001.
- Buckley, John, editor, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, 1999.
- Robbins, Ira A., editor, The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997.
- Melody Maker, April 28, 1983; July 28, 1984.
- New Musical Express, March 23, 1985.
- Sounds, June 16, 1984; April 27, 1985.
- "New Model Army--Biography," Yahoo! Music, http://musicfinder.yahoo.com/shop?d=hc&id=1800171516&cf=11&intl=us (December 6, 2001).
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