ALBUM REVIEW: Boston Manor – ‘Datura’

The interior of an empty arcade, inset on a black background

With seemingly every step away from pop-punk that Boston Manor have taken, they’ve unlocked more about themselves that feels conceivably great. Welcome To The Neighbourhood remains their apex, as a grinding, unfiltered dive into post-hardcore coloured by the urban decay of their surroundings. Subsequently, its follow-up GLUE, despite furthering that direction,didn’t have the same longevity, but last year’s Desperate Times, Desperate Pleasures EP threw in a slug of pandemic-spawned ennui into the mix to great effect. Now they’re effectively a different band from where they started; the edges are harder, and the outlook they give is much harsher and more feral, a product of broken Britain in both perspective and execution.

Granted, that’s been an ongoing process for years, but each new release has added more dimensionality to where it’s still worth bringing up. They’ve shown demonstrably that they’re more creative than pop-punk would’ve ever allowed, and that’s snowballed to a point where something like Datura is an angle that’s definitely natural. It’s another incremental step down their established path that manages to feel even tighter and more propulsive than before, without skimping on the crunch and substance that’s already done so well for them.

Some of that can definitely be attributed to the fact that this is a much shorter than standard, which is a bit of a double-edged sword here. Apparently this is the first of a two-part release, a necessity when only seven tracks and a sub-30 minute runtime can feel somewhat slight; the EP last year wasn’t too much shorter than this supposed full-length. But in true form for Boston Manor, they’re forced to brutally excise the idea of filler, leaving something that’s far leaner and perfectly in tune with their current design ethos. On Foxglove and Crocus where the heaving lockstep is clad in pitch-black armour, it may be the closest they’ve gotten since the original pivot.

At this point in their career, they’ve nailed that atmosphere they’re looking to court, arguably more so here than ever before. There are feelings of decrepit urban liminalities on the dirge of Datura (Dusk) broken up by softer percussion patter, or the holes of light punched in the bleary synth interlude Shelter From The Rain. At its best, Datura finds Boston Manor at by far their most evocative, something that slithers its way across practically all of the album. A lot of that is down to how well Henry Cox sells dejection among the shadowy city depths, and his cries out for humanity on Floodlights On The Square and Inertia.

Really though, the onus is all on the sound, the lynchpin of Boston Manor’s greatest successes of the past several years. Datura is really no different, building on tectonic post-hardcore and sewing in even more threads of menace and shadow. The thick carapace of production does a lot in that regard, like on Passenger in the throbbing processed drums and hanging guitar echoes, or how Crocus leans into the jagged grind to craft a Boston Manor song at its most mechanical, in a good way. It’s that industrial side of Boston Manor’s oeuvre that always yields the most fascinating results, and when it plays an even greater role on Datura—arguably a perfect marriage of aesthetic starkness with equal execution—its force is difficult to downplay.

It may be premature to call it the best Boston Manor album when there’s essentially another half still to come, but it’s the greatest honing of their abilities put to wax to date. They’ve found the optimal way to keep the gloom intoxicating and the immensity oppressive, wrapped up in a package devoid of filler in undoubtedly their most focused body of work yet. And that feels exciting when Boston Manor, a band whose defining trait has been their inability to sit still, continue to abide by that exact philosophy, and find their swings for the fences connecting with tremendous might.

For fans of: Trash Boat, Modern Error, Static Dress

‘Datura’ by Boston Manor is released on 14th October on Sharptone Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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