In 1993, British folk-punkers New Model Army released their first new studio recording in three years, and the leading track and first single from the new album was a piece starkly titled Here Comes The War. The 1991 Gulf War and 1992 war in the former Yugoslavia were subjects certain to arouse the interest and inspire the commentary (and ire) of lead songwriter Justin Sullivan. And, true to form, after a comparatively low-key performance in the last album, Impurity, the band returned with more than a mere vengeance.

Here Comes the War is a song reminiscent of the band's early work and targets the global malaise more than expressing Sullivan's personal thoughts, rants or musings about the way he relates to the world. Musically it's one of their fastest and loudest pieces, with guitars and keyboards unusually prominent in the arrangement, and as such it's become a favourite in their live sets. Performance-wise and as a live song, it's closer to songs from The Ghost of Cain and earlier works rather than the two albums preceding this one. The production and mixing bear the signature of Nico Bolas and Bob Clearmountain respectively.

While superficially about the one or two most recent bouts of bloody mayhem, there's something in this song about every war, conflict, armed insurrection, or whatever else you want to call people setting out to kill each other in droves. As is the case in these days, there's a sense of things getting out of control, of chaos coming to claim its own. In a world that too often equates reason with logic, these are times in which the fallacy of this equation becomes evident. Any insanity can be rationalised by means of logic but "reason" has many more parameters, which aren't all logical or even quantifiable. The words of the last couplet crossed my mind more than once while following the events of early 2003.

The 12" release of this track included a poster titled "Specifications for an Atomic Explosive Device," which was a basic set of instructions for preparing an atomic bomb, and a visual of a charred corpse, just in case someone missed the point. Their signing to a second major label clearly had no detrimental effect on their mode of expression.

I've deliberately chosen to render the text differently from how it's shown on the sleeve, and most of the text is displayed as it is more or less spoken (or screamed) in the song itself rather than in the conventional verse form in which Sullivan writes it down. I think this way is more appropriate for this medium.

Today, as you listen to this song, another 394,000 children were born into this world. They break like waves of hunger and desire upon these eroded shores, carrying the curses of history and a history yet unwritten. The oil burns in thick black columns, the buzz saws echo through the forest floor.
They shout: "Give us our fair share! Give us justice!"


On a grey morning to the south of here two young men in makeshift uniforms peer into the misty light and figures dart behind the trees as a snap of rifle rounds echoes out across the fields. They hardly know their sacred mother tongue but they know their duty to defend the flag hanging limp and bloody above the village church while, a thousand miles away, in a warehouse complex down by the river, young money men play paintball games.

Here comes the war.
Put out the lights on the Age of Reason.

So blow out the candle and tell us another of those great stories, the ones about serial killers. Let dreams flow into savage times. Do you hear the sirens scream across the city? We've had three hot nights in succession - the riot season is here again.

Dear Lord, lead us back into the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Here comes the war.
Did you think we were born in peaceful times?

Faster, faster, like a whirling dervish spinning round
Faster, faster, until the centre cannot hold

You said give us Liberty or give us Death
Now you've got both, what do you want next?


Put out the lights on the Age of Reason.

Here Comes the War from The Love of Hopeless Causes (Epic, 1993)
Writing credits: Sullivan/Heaton/Nelson
Published by Attack Attack Music/Warner Chappell Music Ltd.
Lyric reproduced with kind permission (you're a good man, Tommy Tee)

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