The internet is a mess of lockdown releases and performances, acts champing at the bit to finally label something “The Lockdown Sessions” – because that sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? So cool.
It’s a turbulent time for creative endeavours. Some are productively relishing the ironic sense of freedom that comes with the free time, some have been staring into space in existential terror for 3 months – flip-flopping between ‘just trying to get some toast down’ and furiously masturbating. Fortunately Blake finds himself in the productive camp. His new release “1971” – written and recorded at home – is aptly steeped in nostalgia for another time.
The leading single ‘Reputation’ is driven by a tight blues boogie rhythm and a massive acoustic twang. ‘Reputation’ is a serviceable home recording. Blake addresses Trumpian gaslighting and it sits uncomfortably topical against the retro backdrop. The truth is that it’s very on the nose. The same is true of other tracks – ‘Peter Green’ documents the life of Fleetwood Mac’s co-founder without a hint of creative metaphor. Some tracks are so straight in their storytelling that they almost border on parody, on occasion that strangely seems to work.
Despite this there are some moments on the record that are really worth a mention.
‘Metanoia’ does a wonderful job of that great The Beatles-have-fucked-off-to-india-for-a-bit tabla driven psychedelic atmosphere. Blake’s understated vocals run parallel to a memorable sitar inspired guitar line resulting in a particularly satisfying 70s throwback. This works really well under the constraints of Blake’s DIY approach to this record.
It’s hard to beat the execution of an artist being ramped up, informed and encouraged by a good studio producer – and on some occasions, it’s apparent that Blake is just a bloke singing at home, without that technical feedback. For this reason it never really, properly lets loose when it should, vocals performance sometimes lacking in proper conviction at the right moments. At other times the faltering of Blakes vocals work really well – the twee charm of ‘Daisy Chain’ and ‘Be Mine’ is matched well with their vulnerability and it’s endearing when Blake sings from personal experience.
It’s hard to dislike Blake. It’s in his open, laid back and psychier moments that he really finds his footing.