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Blakfish Champions Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Birmingham band gets stuck between the rock and a hard-to-play place

Mike Diver 2009

“Bankers... you heartless… b*******!” Well, someone had to say it, given the state of the economy. Recover it might, but we’ve all been stung by the mistakes of men in suits playing with money that isn’t theirs, and Blakfish, as they express on opener Economics, are particularly galled by the grip of the credit crunch.

That, and a whole slew of other things – from the poor attendance of shows at an underground level in the UK, to ridiculous hair styles of the hardly rich and never-going-to-be famous, to underpaid nine-to-fives and the acquisition of parking fines. The Birmingham four-piece’s debut album is dominated by talk of members’ myriad irritations and inflammations. Still, it’s not all bad, as announced on Ringo Starr – 2nd Best Drummer in The Beatles: “It could be worse / we could be dead!”

While the group’s expressing of what gets their blood boiling is superbly acerbic, twin vocalists Sam Manville and Thomas Peckett hollering themselves hoarse with the kind of gusto that guarantees that their band is a great live draw, musically Blakfish find themselves trapped between the rock and a hard-to-play place. Metal screams and accessible riffs get the listener pumped, but a fiddly fret play then disrupts proceedings. Evidently talented individuals, it’s as if the band hasn’t quite clicked as a unit just yet, with ideas too many and space too meagre.

At their most melodic, Blakfish echo former Big Scary Monsters label-mates This Town Needs Guns – You Hair’s Straight but Your Boyfriend Ain’t is a pleasingly punchy affair, guitar lines entwining strong vocals and propulsive percussion. When hardcore tendencies come to the fore, though, the subtleties expressed in the detail of their musicianship is lost to power over precision: I Saw a Car on Fire There Once is an unremarkable dirge until a bizarre mid-section tribute to Yes, which itself is soon smashed into smithereens by the returning noise.

Imperfect but bristling with potential, Champions is an album that fans of The Blood Brothers and The Fall of Troy will enjoy greatly. It’s just a shame it gets itself into too dizzy a spin with such regularity, as a little more restraint would have been appreciated. If greater compositional control characterises album two, it’ll be a true champion of its class; but let’s hope the accompanying vocals are no less deliciously embittered.

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