I’ve been following Blindness for a while now, and having picked up their debut EP a long while ago now (and promptly putting it in my best of 2010), seen them live once last year, I’m now making more of a concerted effort to see them live again – and this was the first opportunity I’ve had this year.
Lightning Strikes The Empire State
Buffalo Bar, London N1
14 January 2012
But first, I had to get through two other, unknown bands. As always this is something of a pot luck job, where either you uncover gems or really end up with some stuff I’d really rather not hear again. And here, I got a bit of both. Temple Set appeared to be desperate to hark back to spacey, blissed-out indie rock of the kind perfected by The Verve, but while they got the style spot on, seemed to me to end up with something of a lack of tunes – and so, I’m afraid, were somewhat forgettable.
Much better were Lightning Strikes The Empire State, who brought spiky, muscular indie-rock to the stage, but crucially with intriguing tunes and some really quite fascinating songs. Misery Guts in particular – when a song is introduced as being about being at the wedding of your ex-partner, then getting kicked out and arrested, it is pretty certain to garner attention. It is a good thing the song was as great as the subject! Closer Daylight Saving, which unleashed all manner of guitar-led chaos in five action-packed minutes, was a fine way to finish, too. I’ll be looking out for these guys in the future.
Following that, it was a short changeover to my last band of the night (I was having to miss Jonny Cola & The A-Grades and the rest of the clubnight due to commitments elsewhere afterward), and it was notable that it got an awful lot busier – and about five photographers took up position at the front – just before Blindness came onstage – perhaps a sign that a buzz is really building about the band.
And like the last time I saw them, the driving, pulsing beat of Glamourama introduced things, with a particular point to be made of the lyrics, an apparent assessment of the lengths we go to put a positive face on everything – and especially our looks. This is an unusual position for the band, and particular vocalist Beth Rittig, though – in all honesty there isn’t a great deal of positivity in their music or lyrics, being a dark, murky rock band with electronic assistance and lyrics that broadly are based around dark, desperate personal experience – or at least that is the way I read it.
We were dragged into this world quickly, too, with the bass-led grooves of Not Something (a defiant answer back to anyone trying to pigeonhole, and surely a candidate for a future single), and the taut, smart Deserving. This performance, though, was perhaps a little rawer than last summers gig – partly down to the size of the venue, perhaps, and the strange sound quirks due to the layout of the room.
Last One Dies
This rawness certainly lent itself to the centrepiece of Broken – a tortured vocal delivered without any eye-contact with the crowd, and Debbie twisting all kinds of inhuman sounds from her guitar. The emotions that went into creating that song are certainly still raw, and watching it performed live is a pretty unsettling experiennce. And if the band want another candidate for a single, they need not look any further than the seething Last One Dies.
Their one actual single so far, Confessions, was the final track, and live it actually sounds quite different – the dense production stripped away somewhat, with a friend noting that it is so much more about the rumbling rhythm than the guitar work live, and this also has the added bonus of bringing the vocals to the fore, too.
Anyway, five months or so since I last saw them live, there has definitely been a progression with the band. The songs sound that bit more focussed live, they have clearly settled on their strongest songs, and while Beth still spends an awful lot of time not looking at the crowd or engaging them too much, why should she? She is certainly a striking frontwoman, and without her intensity onstage the band would definitely be lacking.
Finally, two points: a new EP would be most welcome, and someone please sign this band? Far more talented and interesting than the countless run-of-the-mill indie rock bands that seem to clog up the music press, it would be marvellous to see this band gain a wider audience and get the success that they frankly deserve.