Guitar wallowers Blank Realm have made something of a slow-burning pantomime on Illegals In Heaven, rerouting their noisy punk aesthetic into a sound caught between the lethargy of Psychic TV and the dynamism of Half Japanese. This record of pop tunes moves slowly and with wearied measure, songs attaching drumbeats only as a gesture of good will. It was produced by dronelord Lawrence English, to boot.
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I’m starting at the end of all things, because I like “Too Late Now” a darn sight more than any guitar pop song I’ve heard this year. An unwavering plain verse treatise that suits Daniel Spencer’s passed down Dylan vocal, it both slithers along and flies by. Its cymbal-crushed rhythm is happening within reach of your ears, while the guitar’s watery tone makes the song feel like it’s travelling slowly out of sight. Fitting, then, that the song’s centring lyric feels both meaningful and intangible: “It’s much too late now / they just don’t write them like that”. Word.
So yeah, to rewind: Blank Realm are back with their psych-flecked garage rock, and this time it’s shooting in multiple directions: the enfranchised “No Views”, on which they mute their chords, pounce on their synths and yelp like Wolf Parade; the twanging punk ballad of “Cruel Night”, which offers up plenty of Spencer’s signature upward inflections; the hazy but lucid “Dream Date”, whose damp drumbeat plays over a lazy, elegiac guitar riff a la Kurt Vile. There are so many pastiches and homages flowing through ‘Illegals In Heaven', and Blank Realm perform each with the breezy, thoughtless perfection of an exhibition match. Think Deerhunter just enjoying the music, man on ‘Monomania’, only here the nostalgia finds order in the consistently monotone vocals of Spencer.
If anything’s holding Blank Realm back, it’s their dedication to channeling all this fuzz, punk and pop through the Big Music lens: at times the production’s bolder than London Grammar and the atmosphere as bold as the Waterboys, but it suits these guys better than those bands: there’s a chilliness inherent to the guitar tones that makes the band sound lost in the fog, not in awe of the world. Fine jams by genre experts.
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