Well I’ve tried really hard with this album. Really, really hard.
I’ve given it time, I’ve had countless listens and I’ve treated like a stray cat that needs some attention and love.
My initial thoughts however, were more favourable than my thoughts are now.
Most people who know Blackfield tend to agree that albums 1 and 2 were excellent. That they carried the weight of a certain Steven Wilson’s backing and input was obvious, but nevertheless the music was generally excellent. ‘My Gift of Silence’ still ranks up there as one of my favourite tracks. Things took a steep nose dive however with the awful ‘Welcome to My DNA’ and then somehow got even worse with the abysmal ‘IV’ which, to this day, is still a benchmark of mine for truly dreadful albums. The scars of that album still exist despite purging the sounds (if you can call them that …) from my ears with a sacrificial selling of my CD on eBay for a frankly staggering £1.50 ( plus P&P). I sent a note with that album hoping the new owner might seek solace in some decent music after a couple of listens ….
Anyway, on to ‘V’.
Is it better than ‘IV’ – oh yes it is, and by some distance. But that’s not saying too much as I reckon my cat singing Val Doonican ballads after a few pints of Guinness could improve on that.
But it’s certainly getting back to some sort of form, as you would expect with Mr Wilson back to help out, and if we are using a scoring system I’d give it a solid 4/13. It’s not a coincidence that the 4 good tracks feature SW and ‘Family Man’ gets the album under way (after a dreamy prelude) in cracking style. ‘`How Was Your Ride’ could easily be from either of the first two Blackfield albums and has a nice melancholic atmosphere and a lovely guitar section.
Then things start to unravel for me. The problem is Aviv Geffens singing. There is an annoying warbling, nasally tone to his vocals (mentioned in an other review I might add) that strangely gets worse as the songs progress to the point where I find them more or less unlistenable. Try the first few lines of ‘Sorrys’ as an example ….
This middle section of the album is not helped by the songs being fairly bland and generally uninspiring with very little to grab you. Not bad background music, but certainly nothing that would make me want to rush out and see them live for example.
‘October’ sounds like a second rate Barry Manilow ballad but with irritating vocals.
‘The Jackal’ has a tremendous riff and great guitar work. A properly interesting track but if the vocals could just be replaced with another singer, it might be improved 10 fold.
The last three tracks are a strange affair as they include two of the best tracks on the album and by far the worst track that irritates and annoys beyond words.
‘Undercover Heart’ is classic early Blackfield with a soaring melodious chorus that gives serious earworms and is a joy. I’ve even found myself humming this on some my runs recently.
Then the seriously dreadful ‘Lonely Soul’ interrupts proceedings with a repeated refrain of ‘I’m a lonely soul, I’m a lonely soul ..’ over and over and over which just seriously gets on my nerves … terrible track.
And finally from the ridiculous to the sublime, a tremendous Steven Wilson track brings matters to a close with the wonderful ‘From 44 to 48’. A beautiful reflective track, dreamily going through stages in life. This could easily be positioned on a SW album which unfortunately cannot be said of most of the other tracks.
Despite the lacklustre middle section of this album, praise must go to the production which is lush and full but sadly can’t hide the blandness. As I alluded to in my review of ‘IV’, I’m not sure where Blackfield stand in the relatively prog-tastic artists on K-Scope.
I guess there must be an audience for this, and I’ve seen plenty of 5* reviews on Amazon that counteract my negativity, but for me an album with 4 decent tracks from 13 doesn’t really cut it so judicious pruning of the ‘V’ playlist will result in a very good mini-album.