ALBUM REVIEW: The Blinders – Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath (Modern Sky UK)
Columbia, the debut album by The Blinders, was one of the very best records of 2018, so to say I was looking forward to this follow-up is an understaement.
When its release was delayed by a couple of months due to the coronavirus outbreak, that only raised the sense of anticipation, so I’m pleased to say it does not disappoint.
The Blinders are three childhood friends from Doncaster who became a band while they were students in Manchester, and quickly became influenced by the city’s musical swagger.
Thomas Haywood (guitar, vocals), Charlie McGough (bass), and Matthew Neale (drums) seemed to arrive fully formed, and Columbia was a brooding collection of songs loosely based around the concept of an alternate world informed by reality.
Here, they explore existential despair, mental health and society’s ills in a time of planetary crisis, against a backdrop of populist ideology. Or, as Haywood puts it: “These are some of our darkest and bitterest fears put into writing and music … it’s losing faith in humanity completely.”
Fantasies … embraces the energy of IDLES, the darkness of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, and the culturally-inspired lyricism of Fontaines D.C., as well as being inspired by the likes of Joy Division and The Fall from their adopted hometown.
The opening Something Wicked This Way Comes, inspired by an overheard conversation on a train, recalls Humbug-era Arctic Monkeys, and is propelled by a bludgeoning bass line as it warns of the rise of the far right-wing ideologies.
Things explode into life with second track 40 Days And 40 Nights, released as the second single and one of the album’s standout songs. All driving drums and warped guitars, it tells the story of a toxic relationship which collapses into murderous intent as Haywood roars “trustworthy souls are now a minute few”.
Lunatic (With A Loaded Gun) rails at leaders like Donald Trump, who put profits before people, while lead single Circle Song tackles being steeped in suicidal despair as you approach one of life’s crossroads.
I Want Gold turns the spotlight on human greed, while Rage At The Dying Of The Light examines the hopelessness felt by those at the bottom of society’s pecking order.
The doomy, Cave-like Black Glass confronts drug use, while, for all the gloom that’s gone before, we end with a glimmer of hope on closing ballad In This Decade, which recalls solo era John Lennon.
As a whole, this doesn’t quite match up to their debut, but The Blinders have hurdled the ‘difficult second album’ step with ease.
Sadly, all the live activity associated with a new record has been postponed until next year due to the pandemic. That’s a shame, as they’re a stunning live band, so for now we’ll have to make do with this second tasty slice of alt-rock noir, which is tempered by just enough hope for the future. 7/10.