A relatively recent theory to emerge in music journalism is that of poptimism, the theory that pop music’s place in the critical discussion should be taken more seriously, and that it has become a valuable, relevant artform to fairly praise and critique. The funny thing is that the term was coined as a response to supposed “rockist” arguments to denounce and devalue pop as a genre, and yet the same attitudes have appeared within subsections of rock itself. Nowhere is this clearer than in modern post-hardcore, the sort that’s at prevalence treading the boards at Warped Tour each summer, and is often accused of being derivative, too overwrought and absent of a notable rock ethos. Granted, a lot of bands that fall into this camp don’t exactly help themselves by meeting a few, if not all of those criteria, but writing the genre off completely eliminates any possibility of a surprise. Just look at the Palisades album released earlier this year; it wasn’t perfect, sure, but it had the right ideas.
Compare that to Blindwish’s debut Good Excuses, and that looks to be taking an even greater step in the right direction. And even though there’s experience with this sort of thing already (between them, there are connections to Alive Like Me, Indirections and The White Noise), that’s been channeled into an album that is clearly the product of a band still finding what they’re comfortable with, but already manages to exceed expectations for a pretty solid listen.
This is primarily due to two important features – their vocalist and their guitar work, neither of which sound castrated which is an unequivocal positive. Heading up the band is Zackary David, and it’s so good to hear a vocalist in a band like this with a comfortable, natural range and doesn’t feel like they’re straining to hit every other note. They’re still polished to a faultless sheen overall, but there’s power and drive on tracks like Bittersweet and Infected that feels a lot more effortless and is much easier to get onboard with. Alongside guitars that bear a brand of clean armour clearly on loan from nu-metal and the heavier end of radio-rock on Cold Shoulders and Tied In Nots, the very calculated sound that Blindwish have becomes a lot more palatable thanks to those darker influences. Perhaps the track it helps the most is bizarrely Down, the semi-obligatory, confessional acoustic number, but with David’s subdued, smoother range and guitars toned down for a darker rumble, there’s more tangible passion than a good crop of personality-bereft acts can muster.
Delve a bit deeper into Good Excuses though, and Blindwish’s good fortune begins to unravel as the less praiseworthy affectations of their scene take hold. For one, the writing is absolutely nothing to write home about, siding with the tiresome collection of relationship and empowerment tropes that seriously need to be left alone at this point. As for the production, Blindwish are clearly being given a bit more freedom to let their rougher guitar tone break through to a degree, but even then it feels hemmed in by typically restricting mixes and impenetrable walls of gang vocals that are extraneous at best. As well as the unnecessary glitches slotted into After Midnight, and The Maze which is so glitzy and sickly it’s practically begging to be used in rom-com trailers, Good Excuses feels as though it wants to show off how modern and cutting-edge it is when it really doesn’t need to.
Overall that mentality hurts Blindwish more than anything. With more a chance to break out some instrumentation that actually shows what they can do at the peak of their powers, Good Excuses would be a much more satisfying listen instead of one that’s just pretty good. But as an album that is pretty good, there’s a lot that Blindwish do right here, and even if they’re only taking baby steps to moving an oft-maligned sound into more exciting territory, it’s at least a start. At least, even at this early stage, Blindwish have the balls to break away from such an established formula and dare to shake it up, and for that alone, they deserve to commended.
For fans of: Hands Like Houses, Underøath, Too Close To Touch
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Good Excuses’ by Blindwish is released on 1st September on Rise Records.