Review: The New Men – Take to the Skies

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There is no ‘should’ in music. Or, at least, there should be no ‘should’, even if those edgier or more classically minded than I tell you otherwise. My two listening companions to Take to the Sky were a self-professed ex-quasi-semi-famous bassist and a charming lead violinist for the New Chamber Opera, and, against all odds, they seemed to like the all-cheese, all-a cappella New Men as much as I did, if not more. Take to the Sky is a forty minute amble through a cappella paradise, with a couple you’d expect (‘Summertime’, ‘Swing Low’), a few that will be familiar to needy fans of Out of the Blue’s back catalogue (‘I Kissed a Girl’), and one or two that are way out on the left field. Expect high ‘camp’ from musicians who probably ought to know better – and thank goodness they don’t.

Composed of the eight choral scholars of New College’s all-male choir, Take to the Sky is a twelve track departure from choral tradition, in four- and eight-part harmonies ripe with the – going from the closing laughter of the final track – lingering notes of lots of shared bottles of cheap wine. Frankly, it really is terrific fun. The arrangements are clever and focused; the top notes sparkle; and everything is done with tremendous panache. In Oxford, a cappella appears to be having a bit of a moment; the New Men give all you’d expect and a little bit more. Though Out of the Blue’s former success might risk making them sound a little derivative, the smaller size of the ensemble makes for a slightly more intimate feel, with a sense of irony that might well be lost in a bigger group.

I usually write reviews sitting in my dank flat scowling at the poster of the Breakfast Club, feeling at best a bit post-modern, and at worst really bloody miserable (read: hungover). I gave the New Men an airing in the Cherwell offices (still miserable, but mostly about collections), and now I can’t stop smiling. The New Men are ‘curious for you,’ and you certainly should be for them. In short: this is really rather excellent. Great stuff, lads.

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