The Blind Eyes - With A Bang [Album Review]
Not content to stop where they left off with 2009's Modernity, The Blind Eyes return triumphantly with another round of power pop gems on their new album, With A Bang.
Clocking in at 47 minutes the band's sophomore release features 12 three to four-minute songs written predominately by guitarist/vocalist Seth Porter. Bassist Kevin Schneider adds punchy, melodic bass lines and backing vocals while drummer Matt Picker is the glue contributing solid, steady timekeeping. The St. Louis based power pop/indie rock trio clearly spent time polishing the songwriting and arrangements from their last effort for more of a power pop feel by including less indie rock characteristics. The vocals for this new batch of songs sound more professional and experienced; less like a garage band recording with quality microphones and equipment.
A perfect soundtrack for a hot, sticky St. Louis summer, the album checks in with standout tracks "With A Bang," "Hold Down The Fort" and "Another Last Night." The tempo of the album stays consistently upbeat throughout as Porter seems to never stop strumming his guitar. While there's not a sad, slow one in the bunch, the band keeps the listener's attention throughout with breaks in the songs tricking the senses giving the overall feeling that the album is 10 to 15 minutes shorter than the reality.
Album opener and title track, "With A Bang," gets feet tapping immediately without letting up. With a strumming guitar from Porter leading the charge and low tuned tom-tom beats from Picker, the song kicks in and the album is off and running. Lyrically, Porter writes from the perspective of someone looking at his life and realizing that his goals and ambitions had not equaled his reality to that point. Already receiving local radio airplay, the song deserves the opening slot concisely nailing the vibe of the album in one song. For the record collector, a vinyl single specially made for the jukebox with the big hole would fit seamlessly alongside other '60's garage rock classics. (Hint, Hint)
On "Hold Down The Fort" Porter sends a thank you memo to those St. Louis natives who didn't abandon the city in the past 10-20 years deciding to stay and further its revival with the line, "Thanks to all of you who stuck around/Thanks to everyone who stayed and held the fort down." Starting with a chugging guitar riff and bass line on the verses, Porter kicks in with strumming on the chorus bringing the energy level up - heads will no doubt start bopping. The song serves as a commentary on brick thieves stealing the heart of the classic architecture of St. Louis and the graduates of Washington University who come to town, get a degree only to pull up stakes. As a coda, the band brings the music up a key ending with a repeating line, "The cure to all your ills/Is heading for the hills."
Schneider steps up with his own song writing the memorable "Another Last Night" about his feelings regarding a breakup with a girlfriend. Real or imagined the track comes off as a perfect power pop kiss off. "Now that it's over/Now that it's through/I can see clearly/I never needed you." Schneider's voicing cuts through the mix a bit higher than Porter's and breaks the album up with its placement in the middle of the track listing. With their harmonies blending well on the "na, na, na" just before the break, it's a shame Porter and Schneider aren't blending their voices a little more often on the record. Featuring a fun bass breakdown mid song which the band brings back for a couple of choruses at the end putting an exclamation point on the song.
The album features minimal instrumental overdubs besides backing vocal tracks, percussion, and some guitar work on "Another Last Night" and "Best Times." This allows the band to translate the album easily to the live experience.
Produced by the band and Brian Scheffer and recorded by Scheffer at local studio Firebrand Recording, the pop sound of the songs does not become glossy, but retains a raw indie rock sound. In another arena, pressure to add 12-string guitar and other pop elements may have arisen, but thankfully a simpler sound prevails here. Scheffer places Porter's clear vocal takes nicely in the mix sitting his voice just on top of the music with backing vocals just below for the perfect effect.
Album art by Jason Deem and photography by Douglas Garfield with a gatefold sleeve designed by Bobby Levine comes off as a professional statement even though the album is self-released. The yellow background punches through grabbing your attention like the bass lines laid down by Schneider.
The Blind Eyes - With A Bang track listing (Note: Highlighted tracks below are streaming audio)
01 With A Bang
02 Into The Breach
03 Hermetically Sealed
04 Hold Down The Fort
06 Another Last Night
07 The Nature Of The Beast
08 Taken Again
09 All She Wrote
10 Look Back And Laugh
11 Here Comes The Dark
12 Best Times
Plug: The Blind Eyes celebrate the new album with a CD release party tomorrow night at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Ave., St. Louis). Sleepy Kitty and The Livers. Door: 8:30pm Show: 9pm. Tickets are $10 for 21+ and $13 for -21.
Postscript: St. Louis is getting behind this record with radio airplay this from the DJ's on local community radio station 88.1 KDHX helping the cause and other reviews on music blogs in town. To steal a line from Almost Famous, "It's all happening..." with a bang!