When The Blinders were banding around potential names for their second album, few of us could have predicted that the chosen one would mean so much more to us upon its release. We find ourselves in July, having spent much of 2020 obeying orders to stay at home. So Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath, intentional or not, is truly a title for our times.
Cut back to 2018, and three lovely off-stage, slightly terrifying on-stage lads were playing their anti-establishment call to arms out of Manchester having moved from their native Doncaster. They released their debut album, Columbia, recently given the Tim’s Twitter Listening Party treatment, with aplomb.
Since then, Thomas Haywood (vocals, guitar), Charlie McGough (guitar), and Matthew Neale (drums) have asserted themselves as a mainstay on the festival circuit and earned numerous UK tours with sellout hometown dates. They headed back into the studio under the Modern Sky label last year and began penning their sophomore rallying cry.
It was February when we heard the first single, Circle Song, as the album’s original release date was pushed back from May. Later that month, Forty Days And Forty Nights gave us that familiar eardrum-blasting anthem we came to know so well from Columbia.
But let’s hold on, and take it from the top. Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath meets us cordially at the door to the saloon with the opener, Something Wicked This Way Comes. “I am a gentleman of considerable charm and violence, with a bad habit for silence” Haywood affirms, before cueing McGough and Neale to tear it up. We’re back in jagged, ragged, yet ice-cool Blinders territory. Label mates Red Rum Club may be in said bar, having a spiced cocktail as this three-piece tear the jukebox off the wall.
“There are children in cages, on Monday’s front pages”, says Haywood on Lunatic (With A Loaded Gun) – a quivering track akin to Columbia’s L’Etat C’est Moi. Indeed the past few months may require a pluralisation, such is the nature of a society which has never more transparently chosen profit over people.
The artwork for this release, again the work of videographer Sam Crowston, is perhaps best matched with Rage At The Dying Of The Light. Cunning, askew, and beady-eyed with swagger. Then, clocking in at six minutes, Black Glass finds The Blinders put on show as good as ever with their measured and controlled approach. Maturity has always been there, but they have perfected their storytelling, with their frontman and insightful preacher.
The Blinders entered the fray into a post-Brexit referendum Britain, last December they played part of a benefit gig for Manchester’s Labour Party branches, recently they joined many in the industry to celebrate the NHS, key workers, and campaign’s like the Music Venue Trust’s Save Our Venues. This is a band that aren’t just angry, though, as many are. A quick word after a sweaty set at Kendal Calling’s Tim Peaks Diner told me that for sure, observing them discussing their approach for maximum impact. Angry as they may be, they’re awake, proactive, creative, a force of social activism through music to be reckoned with.
There is literature and religion, as worked so well for Fontaines D.C. with their album, Dogrel, and inspiration from some of the finest troubadours of the modern era. Haywood will aim to join them. They claim, proudly, it is the best record they could have produced. Many scream, few are heard, The Blinders demand to be.
Columbia’s closer, Orbit, exhibited Haywood at his delicate best. Live, a sweat-sheening, partially-painted animal stands gently to strum melancholically. In This Decade is this album’s equivalent, a spoken word, piano-led crystal from Nick Cave’s back pocket. The romance is turned up, senses refocus, this is the last roll of the dice, the shavasana of the practice that is this record.
“For in this decade, there’s no knowing if there’s gonna be a tomorrow”.
And the album rests. A tremendous work that is a deserving sibling of their debut.