Blackfield II


Atlantic, 2007

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Blackfield’s debut record had an element of excitement attached to it in the form of curiosity as to how Porcupine Tree (PT) frontman Steven Wilson would fit in a pop-rock mold writing much simpler songs and melodies. The album was a refreshing change from PT’s complexity, and Wilson seemed quite comfortable with his fellow band-mate Aviv Geffen in crafting really simple hook-based numbers. And even the music was so good that the basic flaws of the record -- like the overly-juvenile “high school” lyrics -- could be ignored for the better part of the record.

But with the follow-up Blackfield IImy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , not only has the charm of this exciting new side-project from Wilson worn off due to the similar musical direction that the band has taken, but also the lyrics have gotten worse. Lines like “No one cares about this fucking pretty face of yours” on “Someday,” a track about boyhood alienation, coupled with melodramatic string-driven music, makes it too exaggerated. The same happens with the album closer “End Of The World,” which gets a tad too dramatic when the meat of the track, the beautiful piano-hook, is squashed by an overblown, prophetic chorus. Then there is “My Gift Of Silence,” which has an amazing structure where the intro lays the rhythm for the fantastic drumming that follows it -- but the whole beauty is undermined by a self-indulgent, theatrical chorus.

On the other hand, another ephebic cut “Where Is My Love” (which was featured as an extra track on the debut as a slightly different version) with words that go “Endless fields of emptiness in my tired and wounded heart, where is my love?” is oddly charming with its upbeatness and lack of self-pity, something that wrecks the mood of some of the other tracks. Songs like the opener “Once” and “1,000 People” do not have the makings of classy songs but still turn out as decent rock melodies.

The real deal with the record is the psychedelic “Christenings” (which is almost a Porcupine Tree song, because besides having been written exclusively by Wilson, it also features Richard Barbieri and Gavin Harrison), the hauntingly lush “This Killer,” and the dazzling rocker “Epidemic” -- if only the album had more…

Blackfield II is a stew of hits-and-misses, but fares more towards the “hit” end of the spectrum. Although not as good as the debut, it is still a good follow-up that could have been much more solid if only Wilson and Geffen could have taken it easy on their boyhood angst instead of giving it undue importance and making the record unnecessarily emotional, thus compromising the band’s edge.

Rating: B

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