The Blinders – Columbia

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Most promising band in music. Most exciting live band around. How many times do we hear these phrases trotted out? It seems these days, any act that can fog a mirror has one of these plaudits thrust upon them at some stage. However, with The Blinders, it might just be true. There has been a buzz around the three lads from Doncaster via Manchester for a while. After their blistering headline set on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading/Leeds festival last month, the buzz hummed like an overhead power line. With the September 21strelease of debut album Columbia, that buzz seems destined to hit the ground like a bolt of forked lightening. Energy, attitude, theatrics but most of all top flight tunes. The Blinders have the lot.

Any questions of the trio transferring the energy of their fearless live sets to the recording studio are instantly dispelled the second Gotta Get Through kicks into gear. Heywood’s knack of finding a killer vocal line and sticking with produces a devastating effect. Never doubt the euphoric effect singing the perfect line again and again can have on an audience. Just ask any soccer crowd. But don’t be fooled into thinking for one second the repetition represents a redundancy of lyrical ideas.

The pace doesn’t relent as Columbia shifts straight into the single L Etat C’est Moi another visceral anthem that further underpins the ability of The Blinders to transmit their raw energy to recording. When we caught up with the band ahead of their set at Cabbage’s Ritz All-Dayer back in May, Haywood told us:

“On the tracks that we found we could replicate in the studio, we worked on getting those across and really doing them justice. But there were tracks that we found we just couldn’t do that with. So we approached those songs in a different way and started to experiment with various elements and different sounds. I mean, what’s the point trying to get half a job done, when you can just turn something on its head and think ’why don’t we do it like that instead? You know?”

Hate Song further probes the dystopian theme of Columbia with a sound that transitions from Dick Dale to Raw Power Stooges with a vocal that invokes Ian Curtis. The sound of synths comes almost as a shock on the dark Where No Man Comes. The marching drums leading us into a swirling vortex of guitars. The pounding beat continues into the almost spoken word of Free The Slave. A poem by Bassist Charlie McGough, that echoes with foreboding harmonies.

Police brutality is the subject of ICB Blues, referencing the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Although his actual dying words have been dropped from their earlier EP version. The pace of Columbia slows for Ballad of Winston Smith. A gentle by comparison number from the viewpoint of the protagonist of Orwell’s seminal novel, backed with a beautiful string arrangement. This wonderful oasis in the album ensures Et Tu hits you like a punch to the solar plexus. Its stalking drum beat and biblical metaphors melting into partner piece Brutus. This seven-minute epic tale of modern day power, corruption and lies adds Shakespeare to the list of literary references carried by Columbia.

The theme of demagoguery continues into Brave New World, another example of The Blinders’ and producer Gavin Monaghan’s ability to capture their blistering energy.  Channeling an Exile On Main Street Rolling Stones, Rat In A Cage is an uplifting call to arms for unity in this modern world gone mad. It’s at this point, the concept of Columbia as an album comes together for the listener.  Orbit (Salmon of Alaska) sees us out with its piano motif and cry for freedom for the common man, broken on the wheel of society.

Columbia could have been a collection of tracks wound into a debut and designed to showcase a band at their best. Instead, it’s a dizzying debut by a band that if anything, has been undersold so far. With Columbia, The Blinders take their place among the vanguard of bands currently shaking the UK Indie scene out of its mid-90’s slumber.

Columbia is released September 21st on Modern Sky UK and can be ordered here.

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