Sunday, October 13, 2013
Blackfield - IV (2013)
Country: London, UK/Ramat Gan, Israel
Style: Art Pop
When it comes to the various projects of Steven Wilson, Blackfield is one that I'm stuck in the middle when it comes to an actual opinion. I certainly don't dislike them, but I can't say they've released an album that I've liked from start to finish yet. And from the feedback of people who have already heard this record, the signs didn't appear to be good for this one either.
Before I listened to this album I went onto a couple of sites that I visit regularly and read the comments of people who had heard the record because I had read that because of his successful solo career, Steven Wilson's involvement on this album had been severely lessened. It's understandable that he wouldn't be as involved after releasing two widely acclaimed solo records and touring off them, in addition to producing and remastering records for other bands, but I think it did affect the perspectives of those who knew that before listening to this. When they finally heard it they knew his involvement wouldn't be as present and already had taken against it for that. This might be totally off base, but I can say for myself that I never really listened to Blackfield for Aviv Geffen's songs but rather for Steven Wilson's; and maybe that was it for a lot of other people as well. With only two songs on here being completely sung by Wilson (though Pills did come across sounding more like Geffen than I would like) I think it seemed somewhat daunting that Geffen's presence would be even more overwhelming than it was on Welcome to My DNA back in 2011. Even longtime fans of the project wouldn't say that that was the project's finest hour, and this new album once again continues that trend of degenerating in songwriting quality.
To be fair, in lack of Wilson's lead vocal and songwriting presence on here, people like Vincent of Cavanagh, Brett Anderson, and Jonathan Donahue have come onboard to bring some more "credibility" (if you will) to the album. While I'm not overly enthusiastic about Anderson's or Donahue's presence on here, Cavanagh's track, XRay is a brilliant, if all too abrupt song that perfectly suits his voice and sounds like it could have fit in with any of Anathema's more recent work (even if the lyrics are completely cringeworthy). But to address Wilson's performance for another few seconds, even though his vocals only really lead two songs on here, the rather average opener Pills and the stellar art-pop Jupiter, you can clearly hear him on back-up throughout the album. His guitar playing is also all over this album as well.
But in the sense of being fair, because Geffen did write all the material on here, it would be a crime not to acknowledge that he can write some nice hooks. Tracks like the artful and orchestrated Jupiter, the cinematic The Only Fool Is Me, and the album's biggest success, Sense of Insanity, show that he does indeed know how to write beautifully written and, at times, extremely poppy songs. The last track in particular stands out as being one of the project's most poppy tracks to date, with a chorus that just sticks in your head. Although it reminded me a bit of U2, a band I'm not all that fond of, I would be lying if I said I didn't put the song on repeat several times after I heard it for the first time. But like everyone else has mentioned, there's some serious dips in the album. I know some people like the opener, but I didn't particularly care for either of the first two songs on here, and frankly after Jupiter, you should just end the album because the last four songs are pretty much just a waste of your time; and it's not for lack of catchiness, as a song like Lost Souls isn't bad, but it feels hollow in comparison to all that came before it. Songs like Kissed By The Devil and Faking feels even more phoned in, with the former appearing to just end before it even gets going. Closer After The Rain is the biggest offender on here though, being just shy of a minute and a half long and not even sounding like it belongs on this album at all.
This isn't a terrible album but compared to the group's first two full-lengths, this almost feels like a different band entirely. I seriously hope that either Wilson will return to a more prominent songwriting member of the band or they will just let the project die, because it seems like they are just sliding down a slope with these last two albums. There are some good songs on here, and if you're interested in this album I would suggest just going for those rather than suffering through the entire album.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: XRay, Sense of Insanity, Jupiter