Blackfield- Blackfield II (Atlantic)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Once
2. 1000 People
3. Miss U
4. Christenings
5. This Killer
6. Epidemic
7. My Gift Of Silence
8. Someday
9. Where Is My Love?
10. End Of The World



Earlier this decade, Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Israeli superstar Aviv Geffen got together to record a one-off EP under the moniker of Blackfield. The duo liked the songs recorded for that EP so much, they held back releasing them and instead saved them for a full-fledged LP. The result was the superb Blackfield, an album selected by two Studio M writers as 2004’s best release.

Wilson and Geffen now return for the follow-up, simply titled Blackfield II. Taking some of the anticipation away from this release is the fact that half of its songs have been heard in one form or another before its release, which I will detail below.

Starting things off is “Once,” a Wilson-penned tune that was debuted on the band’s Myspace page some time ago. Tribal drumming acts as a backdrop for Wilson’s vocals, before some electric guitars kick in. The track features some nice choruses and in all, marks a strong way to start off the proceedings.

Next is perhaps the album’s best track, “1000 People.” Walls of shimmering synthesizers and acoustic guitar back Wilson’s stellar vocals, telling the tale of the pressures of fame. “1000 people yell/They’re shouting my name/But I wanna die in this moment.”

As soon as “1000 People” ends, the explosive drums of “Miss U” kick right in. The song, which was played live by the band a few years back, marks Geffen’s first lead vocal on the disc. A solid though unspectacular track, it may have fared better with Wilson handling lead vocal duties. And it loses points for the stupid, non-witty spelling!

“Christenings,” a tune Wilson debuted live a couple of years ago when he opened for Blackfield, is essentially a Porcupine Tree track in all but name. Written for that band’s Deadwing album but left off because it didn’t fit in, the song features Porcupine Tree’s Gavin Harrison on drums and Richard Barbieri on keyboards. Wilson’s patented slide guitar opens the track, a tale of a washed-up rock star. “What happened to your guitar, and what happened to the prettiest star,” Wilson asks, before the chorus questions “how long have you gotta go before you’re through?” This song wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Porcupine Tree’s 2000 release, Lightbub Sun.

Geffen’s “This Killer” is a solid track that makes fine use of strings on the choruses while the tune closes with a subdued guitar solo. An ominous piano part starts “Epidemic,” another song Blackfield debuted live a few years ago. Wilson and Geffen share lead vocal parts and some simple yet effective female backing vocals are used towards the end of this catchy tune. Another highlight.

Wilson’s “My Gift Of Silence” is a tale of two tracks. The opening guitar, which sounds reminiscent of Lindsey Buckingham’s playing in Fleetwood Mac, leads into a very promising verse with piano, drums and Wilson’s vocals. But the choruses, complete with sappy strings, come dangerously close to easy listening territory. Despite the weak choruses, the song is still pretty good, but it could have been much better.

The brooding “Someday” is next with atmospheric acoustic guitar and synths. Major kudos to Geffen for coming up with the wonderfully wicked lyric, “No-one cares about that fucking pretty face you have, it means nothing much this life, so find the highest cliff and dive,” all backed by chilling mellotron. The floodgates open at the track’s end with strings, electric guitar and drums all chiming in. A great track.

The inclusion of “Where Is My Love” is a bit of a chin-scratcher as this tune has been previously released as a bonus track on the U.S. version of the band’s first disc. Not a bad song by any means, it’s still not good enough to justify another appearance.

“End Of The World” fittingly ends the disc with Wilson and Geffen’s shared lead vocals, with Geffen very ably handling the aggressive parts. Featuring a standard drum part and a very catchy piano line, the tune is very depressing, yet highly effective way to close things out.

Blackfield II marks another triumph for Geffen and Wilson. As a whole, this disc is probably a bit more consistent than the band’s first, though I feel the debut is stronger overall as its best songs, namely “Hello” and the title track, surpass anything here. Still, even though it’s just February, I predict that Blackfield II will end up in the upper reaches of 2007’s best.

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