I’ve covered the progress of London-based band BLiNDNESS for some time now – in fact, I first did so nearly five years ago, at the tail-end of 2010 when I covered their debut single Confessions on Tuesday Ten: 117, and then the first time I saw them live was the following summer at the Barfly, and their potential was clear even then.
In the meantime, momentum has been checked by line-up changes and life in general – the reality is that for many smaller bands, real-life commitments always end up getting in the way, and best-laid plans quickly get set aside in reaction to what is going on elsewhere.
But after three singles and the odd compilation appearance, and many gigs in between (I’ve seen them fourteen times live since 2011, and I’ve missed a number of other ones), an album is finally here, so let us see how the band sound in 2015.
There are nine songs on the album – with a relatively brief running time of about thirty-five minutes – and for longer-term listeners of the band, there may not be a great deal that is particularly new here, with the entirety of the Confessions and Last One Dies EPs featuring here, albeit in many cases clearly re-recorded.
So let’s pick up on the three newly-recorded songs first. Song For The Deserving is a pounding, snarling monster of a track – one that has been in the live sets for some years, and is present here with a sound bolstered enormously by the live drums and what sounds like now former bassplayer Kendra’s vocals on backing duties. All In One is the one track here that I’m unfamiliar with (I don’t recall hearing it live before, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t!), and is a track where Debbie’s guitar playing is pushed to the fore, with her wrestling all kinds of effects and sounds from it to the point that it makes for a dense, complex sound – and a song where Beth’s vocals aren’t perhaps so important, with just a couple of verses sung from the heart of the maelstrom.
The pick of the three “new” songs, though, is Sunday Morning by far. As I noted when featuring it in last months Tracks of The Month, it has a glorious, languid feel that suggests hard nights and regretful mornings were a first-hand inspiration – and happily recorded it sounds just as great as it does live.
What of those songs we already know, then? Serves Me Right opens the album with a baring of teeth, as Debbie’s guitar strafes the speakers, Emma’s bass underpins the rhythm with a doomy malice, and Beth’s vocals are spat out like firebombs – it all seems louder and punchier than it ever did before. Similiarly, Last One Dies – long one of their most striking songs – has had a dusting down and a remastering that only serves to make it sound even better.
The mid-section of the album takes a more restrained feel after the attack of the first three songs, though – No One Counts floats along on an elastic bassline (and again sounding all the better for the live drums), while Humming Song has, as the title suggests, a distinctive vocal winding through the slowly picked bassline and unhurried drums – at least until the wordless chorus of sorts rips the sense of calm away in a heartbeat. The scorching, effects-laden close out fades nicely into Broken – where the initial hit of lurching bassline and Beth’s tortured, frail-sounding vocals mask what is to come – a titanic explosion of fury where her vocals soar over Debbie’s extraordinary guitar work and the chaotic drum rhythms, with savage riffs erupting from a storm of effects. It wasn’t unusual in the past to see Beth delivering much of the latter half of this song lying on the floor, exhausted. The sheer force of the track is quite something.
The album ends, interestingly, with where things began. Confessions was the first single of course, and here it reappears in a new version that is in the form they nowadays play it live, with a much more immediate intro and a rawer, rougher sound that actually suits the shoegazey-feel of the track well. I used to think that it was their best song by far, but there is a lot of competition for that accolade now.
Indeed, the short length of the album – and the songs that aren’t here – are perhaps the only thing that I can criticise. One surprising omission is the other single, Glamourama (although I understand that there is a story behind the omission, and I’m hoping to talk to the band here on amodelofcontrol.com soon to find out more about that), but it isn’t the only one, and I’m convinced that a couple of the songs not here are stronger than some that are. As a result, it sells the band a little short perhaps, but then again there is already more than enough material for album number two, which is a good place to be in, I guess.
Certainly getting the amodelofcontrol.com seal of approval, though, this is an exceptional debut album that is well worth picking up when it comes out next month.