Following on from the release last autumn of their second single, Glamourama, Blindness are now following it up with a new single – and seeing as it is being released in two different formats, I'm going to cover them both here in one review.
Last One Dies [Digital EP]
Last One Dies/Flashbulb [split 7" with A*Star]
First up is the split 7" with A*Star, a band I'd not come across before, and first off I was a little surprised to find a band from Chicago doing a split 7" with a North London band. But after a little looking into the details, it all became clear quickly. Both bands have links to Curve – one of A*Star is also part of SPC-ECO, one of the post-Curve projects Dean Garcia has worked on, that Blindness guitarist Debbie Smith – also an ex-member of Curve – has also worked with! – and sonically they are working within the same broad space, too. That space is a electronic-rock/shoegaze hybrid, if you will, but it is interesting how the bands take the same idea and move in entirely different directions with it.
A*Star's track Flashbulb is perhaps the darker, murkier track of the two. A rolling, booming bassline coupled with a forceful, complex drum pattern dominates the track, while the urgent, staccato vocals in the verses give way to a pretty, melancholic chorus – all the while buried that little bit deeper in the mix than might be expected. For a number of us, I'm sure – including me – this is an impressive introduction to the band, and I'll be certainly hunting out more.
Of course, Blindness are much more familiar to me, and I've been crowing about how great this song is for ages and ages now. An electronic pulse simmers underneath a bass-heavy rhythm, before Beth's vocals explode into a seething chorus, by some way the best they've written so far. What is even better about the recorded version is that as the track charges towards the climax, layer after layer is added, with Kendra's backing vocals adding a sweet counterpoint, before the track stops dead leaving you wanting more. This is the band at the absolute top of their game.
Also imminent, in the form of a pay-as-you-wish download on Bandcamp, is a three track EP from Blindness, led by Last One Dies, of course. The version of that track is the same on both releases, so let's look at the other two tracks.
Both will be familiar to anyone who has seen Blindness live over the past year, as they have been played regularly. But what is interesting to me is that both songs sound somewhat different on record. Humming Song (Intentions) stood out as a bit of a departure when it was first aired – a bit more straight indie-rock, perhaps, with a different focus to their other songs. The beat is heavy, slow and steady, the humming vocal accompaniment offering an unusual texture, while the "chorus" is an impressive, instrumental guitar freak-out. This recorded version, in my opinion, is much better than the live version, the precise recording allowing all of the elements to shine through and making it much more punchy.
The final track is Serves Me Right, dominated by Beth's snarling, unrepentant vocals where she sets the record straight over an unnamed subject, backed by a thundering rhythm section, and the swampy, heat-of-the-night feel of the verses in particular bring to mind PJ Harvey in her mid-90s, bluesy period. This is not a bad thing.
Over the three tracks, though, this is the sound of a band progressing in leaps and bounds. We already knew that the band had the great songs, it was simply a question of how well they could be recorded. The answer is a resounding "brilliantly", and to add to this, we get a new band to enthuse over too in A*Star.