It’s been quite a year for Sweden’s Blindside, what with leaving one record label, signing to another, reissuing their first two albums, releasing a DVD to celebrate 10 years in the game and now giving us this, their fifth studio album.
For the recording of The Great Depression, Blindside went back to Stockholm with producer Lasse “Lars” Marten, the man responsible for their glorious, eponymous debut. It shows. For where Silence and About A Burning Fire – aka The Atlantic Years – were slick, sleek and polished, The Great Depression harks back to the raw, rough-round-the-edges sound of Blindside and A Thought Crushed My Mind.
That’s not to say that Blindside have dispensed with the commercially accessible elements they displayed on the Atlantic albums. Instead, they cover all bases with some songs taking their cues from the playful exuberance of Blindside, others the hardcore aggression of A Thought Crushed My Mind, and others the anthemic quality of Silence and the melodic sheen of About A Burning Fire.
The first half of The Great Depression is particularly good, demonstrating once again that Blindside are almost unique in their versatility, musical intelligence and punk expression. Heartattack and Fell In Love With The Game, for instance, throw in Clash-like delay effects and quasi-reggae guitar lines during the verses, while We’re All Going To Die and Yamkela – both inspired by vocalist Christian’s recent trip to AIDS-stricken areas of South Africa – are stunning pieces of pugnacity that still manage to pull out huge choruses from the eyes of their respective hurricanes.
Put Back The Stars, in contrast, sees Blindside exploring what can only be described as Pixies territory (a compliment, in case you were wondering), with insistent verses and a wonderfully sparse chorus where Christian gets to show off his undoubtedly impressive vocal talents as he proffers, “Ain’t it something to know you’re lost?”
The second half of The Great Depression is far from mediocre either, although those of a hyperactive disposition may find that, with the exception of Come To Rest (a proper, phlegmy-vocalled punk beast), the songs take their foot off the accelerator once too often for comfort.
Still, there’s plenty to like, namely the gentle, brooding Citylights, the memorable melodic rock of We Are To Follow and Bleeding Under Your Eyelids, and My Alibi, which is eerie yet funky and contains a synthed disco section (!) á la [Phatbeat 1303] from A Thought Crushed My Mind.
Sweden has given the world some cool punk and hardcore bands over the years including Firehouse, Refused, Millencolin and, if we’re stretching things, The Hives. The discerning listener will have had Blindside at the top of this list for years now – The Great Depression only serves to cement this status.