One of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year comes from The Blinders, a young Manchester-by-way-of-Doncaster three-piece that have gained a reputation as not only ones to watch, but ones to admire. Originally due for release in May, the extra two months wait has managed to only build hype, consequently creating a release that feels fully embedded in its own cinematic world. Known for their loud live shows and rowdy political lyrics, Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath takes this energy and refines it. Perfectly fitting with the album’s persona, The Blinders second record is a Patrick Bateman type, violent and punching but concealed in a preened skin as the band cross the Ts and dot the Is on this perfected release.
This is clear from the start as the opening track, Something Wicked This Way Comes, wastes no time in introducing you to not only the albums leading character but also the band’s evident development. As the epilogue to the story of a ‘gentleman of considerable charm and violence with a bad habit for silence’, you’re told immediately to strap in for a new generation of The Blinders chaos, more of a psychological thriller than a chainsaw massacre. Something altogether more refined, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a perfect snapshot of the album, displaying the best of Thomas Haywood’s narrative lyrics, Charlie McGough’s grounding baselines and Matthew Neale’s frenzy building drums. But unlike on Columbia, Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath displays a new restraint as the band learn the power of the understatement, keeping their instruments tight to let Haywood’s lyrics welcome you to the record.
In our previous talks with the band, Nick Cave was pulled out as an influence, which makes so much sense here. Similar to Cave, I can see Haywood writing novels in the future, having a clear talent for character writing and storytelling in his lyrics and infusing their discography with references from across literature in a way that doesn’t feel forced or pretentious. It’s not a stretch to liken the record to Nick Cave’s early work with their crooning lyrics dripping with the same dark sex appeal as Cave’s Do You Love Me, or even stepping into the lyrical intricacies of Murder Ballads. This parallel gets stronger and stronger the deeper you wander into the record, as even when the instruments dive into the signature The Blinders heavy breakdowns, Haywood arises as the same messianic figure as Cave, keeping his chaotic communion hypnotised.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the rapturous Lunatic (With A Loaded Gun), a high-energy political track that follows in line from first album hits like L’Etat C’est Moi and Brave New World. Since it’s release as a single, the track has already become one of the band’s top listened to tracks, but in the context of the album, it’s given a new life. Though hyper-political and full of real-world references to American politics, the track returns to it’s leading figure and pulls its psychopath into our world. Briefly moving away from its sexy American Psycho vibes to make space of a PSA, their lunatic is a real and imminent threat as their figure morphs into a realised person we all know. Displaying the best of the band’s plugged-in and engaged lyrics, merging their storytelling skills with their evident interest in politics, we’re excited to see this one live, feeling like a wake-up call or a battle cry for their fan-base to join them in screaming.
I want to talk about Circle Song, but honestly, I’m not sure I can say much else other than it’s perfect. Having been a firm rotation in my playlists since its release, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. Packed full of absolutely genius one-liner lyrics like ‘and if not for Bowie / who’d know about the Norfolk Broads?’, I can see this being a huge Blinders gateway drug, being far more refined and easy-listening than any of their other releases. From all corners, this is their best work with the echoing guitar, solid baseline and classic drum licks, it’s also an amazing vocal performance as the band turn down their amps to give more room for tight harmonies that finish the track off perfectly. For me, Circle Song is a huge sign of maturity for the band, maybe in part due to the influence of producer Rob Ellis, giving off the sense that his vast experience with bands like Bat For Lashes and legends like Marianne Faithful may have given The Blinders the confidence to strip back a little, trust in their talent and rely less on sheer volume. Whatever brought on the change, for a band that’s still so young, their development is already staggering, working towards a legendary status that I have no doubt they’ll reach.
I think this assurance comes from their uniqueness, something that allows them to break up the record with a spoken word Interlude and have it feel completely natural. The poem itself feels like something plucked out of the journal of an icon, touching on the dark humour of Morrissey and the narrative power of Dylan’s lyrical ballads, a true homage to all of their heroes while being most definitely written in Haywood’s handwriting. The Blinders really do set themselves apart as a band with a fully formed vision and aesthetic, built off the back of three men who are clearly intelligent, well-read and totally in love with what they do. By-passing all the cliches of the indie boyband circuit and opting for an approach that honours their vision, working closely with videographer Sam Crowston to create short films and putting their spin on covers, The Blinders are catapulting down an empty path that feels uniquely paved for them. Lined with eager listeners and a loyal fan-base, we haven’t seen a band like The Blinders in a long time.
The refinement of Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath isn’t to say that OG fans won’t find all the things they love about the band here. Tracks like Mule Track, From Nothing To Abundance and I Want Gold keep up the band’s beloved signature formula of sexy, spiralling verses descending into heavy choruses as the members fall into a frenzy like three boys blasting their instruments in a garage. Everything known and loved about Columbia can be found on this second record, but it has an overwhelming sense of being finished off. With simple additions of harmonies, crisper reverbs and even bongos, Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath massively benefits from a fuller production, finessing the finer details to make you take note that they’re not fucking around.
Take Black Glass for example. Sitting at a 6-minute run time, the track is a perfect display of this new-found control, creating something that is cinematic and shrouding. Starting soft and moody before slowly building into a finale that could more than fill a stadium, the breakdown is almost reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain as the listener is strapped in for a track that slowly turns up the heat. It seems to be that there are three personas to be found in The Blinders discography; the poet, the player and the preacher, and Black Glass takes you on a tour of all three as the band display their mastery over their lyrics, their instruments and their audience as we have no doubt we’ll soon see the boys watching as their audience fall into the madness of a healers congregation.
When you’ve made it through the heavy highs and lows, exhausted like you’ve been put through your paces by a killer hot on your heels, you’re met at the finish line by Haywood, solo. In what seems to be becoming a tradition for the band, the record is capped off on a quiet note, bringing something vulnerable and authentic to the album in the same way that Orbit does for Columbia. In This Decade plays clear homage to a different part of Haywood’s heart, nodding to country icons like Dylan, Townes Van Zandt and the melancholy of crooners like Tom Waits. It’s the sort of track you expect to hear sung from the corner of a pub, having a demo feel of a song just written and freshly fuelled by feeling. Following on from his lockdown covers, including a beautiful version of Tom Waits’ Martha, I hope we see more of these gentle moments from the band. Packed full of beautiful references from throughout literature and religion, In This Decade eases you out of the album with a sense that you’ve just heard something special and important, like in 10 years’ time you’ll be talking about the day you heard The Blinder’s new album, bragging that you knew them before the world did.
Our advice; pay attention. Buy some merch, get the vinyl, be first in line for their gigs post-corona, because it’s only a matter of time till all these things will be coveted and you’ll want to be part of their communion.