The Blinders’ 2018 debut Columbia excited upon its arrival, drawing comparisons with Idles amongst others. The essence of the record was focussed on attempting to recreate the Manchester-via-Doncaster band’s considerable live power – a task they admit is nigh-on impossible within studio confines. Follow-up Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath, yet another record to succumb to the delays a worldwide pandemic has brought, having been due in May, takes a different approach, which might largely be down to the significant control of producer Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey).
By all accounts, the trio found it easy to put their second album together, a rarity going by the well-renowned difficulties second efforts bring. But despite the new approach, it clearly feels like a part two, with the curtailment of longer instrumental passages being one of few noticeable changes. Ellis being at the helm has also seen the surprised band having to drop some of their favoured cuts after he decided they didn’t fit.
When you’ve listened to the album in full, this does seem odd considering some other factors. Closer In This Decade is a prime example: the only acoustic song on the album, its inclusion is surprising to say the least, sitting as it does somewhere between Stereophonics in full-on acoustic mode and Bob Dylan, Tom Haywood’s vocals brimming with serious resemblances to the legendary performer. If acoustic songs were in, then, it’s hard to see why single Circle Song didn’t get the same treatment as there is an excellent acoustic version currently doing the rounds that reveals just how great a song it is. Instead, the full-band version included here doesn’t fit with the generally heavier, darker theme of the record either, and its similarities to John Lennon’s solo material deserves more.
Influences from literary milestones continue to pop up like on the debut, with the band claiming that they try to recreate their take on what they’ve read or listened to from their own perspective, like running classics through their own filter if you like. Evident from the outset with a Macbeth line providing the title of the opening track – Something Wicked (This Way Comes) – they parade their influences in the open, this time the thrilling track providing a less hectic, more cohesive cut than much of the rest of the album, turning into something you could see in a gangster movie. Funeral favourite Rage At The Dying Of The Light – a Dylan Thomas poem – also lends its title to a track here, and it’s suitably punchy.
Too often though, songs appear to go nowhere of note. The brooding I Want Gold suffers this fate, as does the stop/start Mule Track via some heavy riffage, but the pace changing upsets its flow. Doomy guitar tones adorn Forty Days And Forty Nights with Lucifer references suitably coupling with Black Sabbath like riffage but again, its manic, raucous darkness struggles for direction, although it’s clearly destined for some mosh-pit mayhem when live gigs return. Black Glass, however, seems to conversely benefit from a lack of direction, stepping between several tempo changes during six minutes as it approaches something like a heavier, psychedelic drug-free version of The Doors’ The End.
When they get it right, though, it’s brilliant, as the excellent From Nothing To Abundance will testify with its brooding undercurrent, bass driven verses, organ chords and a superb, vigorous instrumental burst where a chorus would normally be, creating something that Iggy & The Stooges would be proud of. The bombastic Lunatic (With A Loaded Gun) is as compelling if not quite at the same level, with vocals now taking a distorted Mark E Smith guise, The Fall momentarily recalled for a cut that points a judgemental finger at any one of several candidates currently in political power.
You have to wonder what this record would have turned out like if it had been self-produced. If the tracks slashed are as good as the band thought, then they’re likely to be used at some point soon, at which time we will have a better idea of whether or not Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath is as good as it could have been. For now, we must trust the producer.