Album Review: IV by Blackfield

*****

downloadBlackfield started as a collaboration between Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson and Israeli pop and rock singer Aviv Geffen.  The first two albums, Blackfield and Blackfield II are brilliant albums that are hard to categorize.  When I describe early Blackfield to people, I say it’s “dark pop.”  There are some guitar-heavy moments on each of these albums, but most of the music is a maudlin mix beautiful, lush melodies, and lyrics about isolation, lost love, and abuse, themes common in Steven Wilson’s songwriting.  2011’s Welcome To My DNA found Steven Wilson ceding creative control to Aviv Geffen, which is evident when listening to the album.

Disappointingly, this trend has continued on Blackfield’s IV.  I’m not taking anything away from Aviv Geffen.  He’s a good singer and songwriter, and there are some well-constructed songs on IV.  The musicians’ playing is solid, with Steven Wilson contributing on guitar.  Wilson and Geffen both sing on the album’s opening song, “Pills,” which is perhaps the best song on the album.  Wilson sings lead vocals on “Jupiter,” the only song aside from “Pills” that actually sounds like Blackfield.

“X-Ray” is a beautiful song, featuring Vincent Cavanagh of alt-rock band Anathema on vocals.  “Firefly” and “The Only Fool Is Me” also feature guest vocalists Brett Anderson (Suede lead vocalist) and Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips) respectively.  Geffen’s use of these talented guest vocalists doesn’t add value to the Blackfield brand; in fact, I would argue that it actually weakens it.

Geffen provides vocals on the remaining tracks on the album, none of which stand out.  I think this can be attributed to Steven Wilson’s absence in the song-writing and arranging process.

Bottom line: IV is a decent album, but it doesn’t sound like a Blackfield album.  I realize that some bands change their sound or style over time, but this album goes beyond a change in sound or style.  The songwriting is not up to par with the first two Blackfield albums, or even with the band’s third album, Welcome To My DNA.  This is a direct result of Steven Wilson’s minimal involvement with the album.  What a shame.

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