“These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up…”
Perhaps once in a generation comes a movement that speaks for its outcasts, those who are undernourished but well read, those who see injustice, but have been fed only on a diet of apathy, and corruption. The blue generation before us were emotionally rescued by bands like the Manic Street Preachers, now, rising from the ashes of Brexitopia, (and the burned out ruins of the indie landfill) we have The Blinders.
With Columbia, the highly anticipated debut from the Doncaster trio, we are taken to what they describe as a ‘fictional world, based on reality’, it’s poetry depicts a desperate battle between light and dark, that gradually accepts that both are necessary for survival – however the listener cannot help feel that there is also a call to arms within, one that has been a desperately long time coming.
More than this, Columbia feels like an infusion of decades of counter-culture, a treasure trove of that can be mined in the same way Generation Terrorists or Sandinista! is, by the soul rebels before them.
With live favourite, ‘Gotta Get Through’, (reviewed by our Monefa here) the album starts with a defiant foot-stomping, although for those who have experienced it live, they may find it hard to contain the pogoing on the public transport to work, by force of habit. (Ahem..)
Track two, ‘L’etat C’est Moi’, named after the possibly apocryphal words by Louis XIV – (literally: I, Myself am the nation or, I am the state.) before he went ahead and established an absolute monarchy… (spoiler alert: it didn’t end well.)
When Johnny Dream leads the charge of ‘I’ve got divine right!’ it’s hard not to feel ready to take on ‘The Party’ single handedly.
This is followed by ‘Hate Song’ and ‘Where No Man Comes’, which, despite the change in tempo, has no less punch.
This leads us into ‘Free the Slave’, a poem with dystopian guitars that lead a short frogmarch which crashes us back down to a 1984 reality. It finishes in a sharp stab of wonder: “…and in a society like this, who the fuck would want that?”
ICB Blues is perhaps one of the most powerful tracks on the album.
Taking it’s name (I Can’t Breathe) from the tragic last words of Eric Garner, which has became synonymous with the institutionalised homicidal racism of the US police force, continuously legitimised by it’s tangerine fascist-in-chief.
‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ decries Johnny Dream in what feels like a verbalised scratching at the walls, trying to make sense of how we got to this, and how we fucked up so badly.
‘Hoodwink Society, hang the Manson Family.…’
Continuing our wide eyed awakening is the oddly touching ‘Ballad of Winston Smith’ which somehow ties together a society in a chaos and the very depths of counter culture with Orwell’s ill-fated protagonist. The Blinders sum up in just over two minutes, an entire mood of a generation, which leaves you winded.
Et Tu, followed (obviously) by Brutus are seamlessly woven into one another; a return to the anthemetic protest songs that people love from this band live. ‘We’re all in this together, or so they say’; a biting reference to the Conservative Party manifesto of class war starvation, oh sorry… I mean ‘Austerity’.
Although all of this album is a cathartic emotional ride, nothing quite makes you ready for war, as Brutus’ machine gun drum and guitar combined with an ever more erratic Johnny Dream, who seems lost somewhere between a shamanic trance and leading guerrilla warfare. ‘They’re going to build a Berlin Wall…’ he shouts, before leading his own two minutes of hate chanting…
‘Down with Big Brother, Down with Big Brother!’
Brave New World weaves Huxley’s masterpiece effortlessly into our dystopian Columbia (something that Orwell himself prophesied, albeit probably with a few less guitars). It loses nothing of it’s nihilism on the track compared to live, however perhaps that’s because it’s one of the most universally ‘this band get it’ tracks on the album.
‘The rats are everywhere, but how many cages?’
This, followed by Rat in A Cage, gives us some much needed hope. ‘Come Together, We Need Each Other..’ Johnny pleads repeatedly and it’s irresistible war cry is infectious. This is the hope we need facing the storm. It’s the harmonica that somehow completes this soothing track.
‘So the boy starts to dream, dream the most dangerous of dreams…’
Orbit (Salmon of Alaska) allows listeners to take a breath. A beautiful ballad which is somehow both the most ‘non-Blinder’s’ song on the album and yet is the most revealing about the band. It shows that not only have they learned to craft catchy choruses and a soundtrack to armageddon, but also, that they are fundamentally beat poets of the 21st Century, of whom both Bill Burroughs and Guy Debord would sing praise.
Columbia is out 21st September. You can get your hands on it here.
The Blinders tour tickets for Oct-Nov 2018 are here.
We’ll see you at the front.
Video poetry by Patrick T Davis
Photos and art: Sam Crowston
The Quote? Charles Manson.
The Zine UK’s Editor-in-Chief. Has 7 Cats and likes a G&T or five. Usually found singing The Red Flag at 4am, missing a shoe, not always drunk.