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Blackfield - A Great Debut Album
Blackfield - Blackfield
Member Name: melinda3536
Blackfield - Blackfield
Advantages: Great melodic rock - pop
Disadvantages: Maybe not as original as it could be - still good though !
Blackfield are a niche supergroup. Most people will never have heard of them, but if you're a fan of contemporary music in Israel, there's every chance you'd be very familiar with one half of the duo behind this band. Aviv Geffen is a superstar over there, and is also well known for his outspoken, peace campaigning, political views. The other half of the duo is Steven Wilson, currently employed remixing and re-jigging the entire King Crimson back-catalogue into 5.1, and fitting in a bit of work on Jethro Tull's Aqualung while he's at it. He's also the brains behind rising British band Porcupine Tree (best known in prog-metal circles at present), and one half of the almost genre -unclassifiable No-Man, apart from countless other things he has underway at any given time. Between them, they have been writing some fine rock-pop songs over the last ten years or so, the first manifestation of which was this album, imaginatively titled Blackfield, released in January 2004.
Most of the songs are collaborations lyrically, but on this album Steven Wilson takes the majority of the lead vocals. Geffen wrote the majority of the music, with two songs each getting solo credits (Wilson wrote Blackfield and Lullaby, while Geffen wrote Pain and The Hole in Me). Here's a quick track-by-track guide:
1. OPEN MIND - a gentle melodic introduction, acoustic guitar riff and vocal harmonies leading to a crashing electric guitar, then back to the harmonies again, a combination of sounds repeated throughout the song. Lyrically it's poetically obscure - it has a bit of a repressed love-type theme, but I find it's generally an uplifting song!
2. BLACKFIELD - written by Steven Wilson, a strong rhythm and melody run throughout this pop-rock song, named after what was literally a black field near where he grew up. Lyrically, every couple of lines references said field, mentioning various things either found or done in it, and not surprisingly a girl is involved.
3. GLOW - an introspective, thoughtful song, not surprising since the song talks about being very low, and self-harm. The first part is without percussion, just Wilson's vocal, keys and strings - Geffen's vocal kicks in with the drums and guitars in a frantic and pleading end to the song. Live, Geffen's solo, piano-accompanied performance of this song is very moving.
4. SCARS - this song about a troubled relationship has a definite bounce to it, with the bass and drum maintaining an off beat that I feel gives the song a quirky catchiness. It even briefly drops into a club vibe in the middle eight for some reason!
5. LULLABY - an intense piano and vocal song, with strings added later in the song. Its hard to tell whether it's written from the point of view of an abused adult or child. One thing's for certain, the contrasts between each line in the song (written by Wilson) are at times extreme - "Do no harm / Twist my arm / Lie with grace / Smash my face". It is a disturbing song, even more so due to the lullaby-like melody.
6. PAIN - Geffen takes the lead vocals in this broken-hearted song of lost love, a pop-rock number with a great melody and a catchy, if sad, chorus - one that you can sing out with if you're feeling sad and abandoned.
7. SUMMER - For some reason, I tend to forget this track, could just be that I always think it's called 'Heart Needs a Home' since that's the most often repeated line in the song. It's not exactly filler, but it's not quite an attention grabber either. With Wilson on vocals again, it's a slowish ballad, a pleasant enough summery song, but in my opinion the least strong on the album, despite some beautifully mellow guitar work.
8. CLOUDY NOW - This is a translation from Hebrew into English of Geffen's song "Achshav Me'oonan". It's very much about his home and the state of his own generation. Wilson takes the lead vocal, at first with only guitar and keyboard, slowly building up quite a sinister atmosphere as the other instruments come in, until it reaches the angry climax as the frustration with his generation boils over. The only song with the f-word on the album, for those who find that a problem.
9. THE HOLE IN ME - Geffen takes over the vocals again, with the verses on an off-beat accompanied by a mandolin and keyboard. Wilson joins in for the chorus, accompanied by the full band. The song seems to be about loneliness and trying to solve it, at least temporarily, with the trappings of fame, but being unable to settle with all of the attention. A great chorus to sing a long to!
10. HELLO - the last track of the album is an ironic greeting, as it is indeed about saying goodbye. A minor-key pop-rock outing with Wilson on lead vocals, with a wistful chorus.
While you may well guess from my track descriptions that this album isn't exactly ground-breaking, it is, however, a very good album, a very solid collection of rock-pop songs sung with passion; beautifully orchestrated, harmonised and produced by Steven Wilson. Personally, as a Wilson fan, one of the parts I enjoy is his often subtle guitar work. Although he hasn't until fairly recently seen himself as a guitarist (his main instrument used to be the keyboard), he is a great player and composer, and I enjoy listening to and watching him playing very much. There isn't really a place for soaring solos in Blackfield's music, so it's colouring and shading here, which he does beautifully and almost without you noticing.
Geffen's voice is always heartfelt and passionate, it's quite unusual as well and a few people find him a bit hard to listen to as his is a very rough, almost damaged vocal at times. Together they have made a great collaborative collection of songs which they were to build on several years later with another two albums (so far!) - so this comes recommended to anyone who enjoys their pop music with a bit more thought and heart than your processed commercial radio fodder.
Summary: A very enjoyable debut.