Blank Realm - Go Easy

by Amy Putman Rating:8 Release Date:2013-03-04

It's a really good sign that this album instantly made me air-drum and do wiggly shoulders. Wiggly shoulders AND head-jolting. That's not quite head-banging but still enthusiastic. Anyway, one simply does not head-bang to this brand of punk rock. One does not. One may hurl oneself around a flailing pit, one may sway meaningfully with appreciative face, or one may manically nod, but the full head-bang is reserved for meaty metal.

At this point I should perhaps apologise if this review goes a little odd, strange, quirky, bizarre, or otherwise flaky, but I have been drinking a lot of strong, delicious, black, slice-with-a-knife-thick, crema-topped, sour-sliding-down-your-throat, dark-fruit-aftertaste, kick-you-in-the-artery, brain-frothing espresso, followed by hours of boring CV re-jigging. Something has to escape.

That said, for this kind of weebling, tornado-licking, scattergraph mood, Blank Realm are perfect. They are both exciting and emotional, lilting and full-on, switching between moods throughout the album. They continually lower you down, pick you up, or open you like a fish, playing around in your bloody, messy, gooey, wobbly bits.

Punk rock is definitely their genre. Musically, they pick the best from the 50s, 60s, 70s and early, alternative 80s. Imagine art-punk infused with bold guitar solos reminiscent of The Doors, and some twangs of Buddy Holly, but retaining the inherent frantic rawness of straight punk. On top of this are vocals which switch between The Fall and The Raincoats, depending on who is singing.

It is a very accomplished album, and certainly their best so far. I anticipate listening to it a lot over the next few months and I'm pretty certain that each time round familiarity will engender love and loyalty rather than boredom. I'm already very fond of them and I've only had a few days hanging out with their creations. It is going to be a staple of the soundtrack to my life over the next couple of years, and I will take it all over the place with me, strutting through train stations, and feeling things in carriages... And that's just not something someone as British as me does.

'Cleaning Up My Mess' made me stir in ways I don't think I ever have sober. It cranked open the rusty cavern of my torso and electric-poked my heart into action. That's impressive. I also loved 'Acting Strange', which is the punk equivalent of bursting into sunlit society after a year of dark rooms and isolation, when moments before someone has given you a line of speed, a joint and a handful of mushrooms... In a good way. It felt like the explanation for all my awkwardness; like a kindred weirdo was reaching out across the void.

The title track has a little Velvet Underground or Talking Heads about it. It has that slow, ponderous, accepting sadness which looks at modern life asquint but can do nothing but shrug. Totally without self-pity, it encapsulates the necessary apathy for approaching a disconnected and hardened society. It does so with ease and flow, and a simple tune which writes itself into your synapses.

That said, I really disliked 'Growing Inside'. I didn't hate it and maybe with time I'll gain a sort of moist, gentle, moss-mind like for it, but my instant reaction was intense, wrinkle-lipped distaste. A sort of reaction-to-the-smell-of-the-bin face. For that, I apologise to Blank Realm, because this album somehow made me like them as people, even without any further information. I can see what they were aiming for, but this track is just not quite pulled off right. It sounds unmelodious, clashing and lazy instead of interestingly discordant and garagey.

'The Crackle Parts 1 and 2' are exciting in their experimentation and play with some frankly extraordinary and wonderful sounds, but are a little slow. 'Pendulum Swing' also starts excellently and is well constructed but peters out a little in energy towards the end and perhaps invites the tiniest dab of boredom by going on just a dash too long. On the other hand, 'Working on Love' was just plain sweet - if honey made you cry and ache and do a mad little dance in your pyjamas that nobody should ever see. I mean that as a compliment.

All in all, this album is the artisan loaf in the store cupboard of my music collection. It's not quite the topper but it's a cut above the average slice in quality and enjoyment. It's something I will return to time and again and am surely not going to discard wantonly any time soon. It may not be caviar or home-made jam, but I will enjoy every bite nonetheless. Besides, tasty bread never made anyone sick, and restores the soul whenever you need it. Blank Realm have many awesome qualities, they're just not quite my favourite food.

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