Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven
Blank Realm are an Australian band that define the term “middle-tier”. They are a bellwether of what people are talking about when they’re talking about mainstream indie – arpeggiated near-ballads indebted to the Stone Roses broken up with the occasional more uptempo number. They’ve never been anything particularly special, and Illegals In Heaven doubles down on this middle-of-the-road oblivion. The album kicks off in an exciting enough manner with “No Views”, a garaged-up number that kicks along in a more galvanizing fashion than they’ve ever really managed before. Unfortunately, it falls apart quickly after with songs that lounge and snooze rather than rally; “Costume Drama” and “Palace of Love” make an attempt at getting the party started again but it’s largely an abortive effort. Illegals In Heaven tries to trade in on mid-tempo balladry to fill out its scant ideas, and tellingly said ballads are nowhere near the league of the uptempo pieces.
“Too Late Now”, the final track, exemplifies the real problems with this album: it’s slavish Stone Roses worship with a ham-fisted attempt at being edgier with the vocal, and it only half-works. It passes the time well enough, but nothing sticks around after the fact, like a dream that gets scattered and lost upon waking.
“Who’s falling down the stairs tonight?”
Australia’s Blank Realm used to be a lot noisier four years ago, and even two years ago they drowned songcraft in dissonant Sonic Youth-esque noise. *Grassed Inn* finds them in a much more accessible mood, although it’s not completely certain if that’s really for the best. The band combines the expansive mood-building of the Stone Roses and Spiritualized with the single-minded drone work of the Velvet Underground (there’s a touch of Lou Reed to Daniel Spencer’s vocals as well) and the amphetamine beat of 1970s Krautrock. They reach out to make new-world indie anthems but the songs often stick around for a bit too long to make them completely memorable. Even the key track here, “Falling Down The Stairs”, is guilty of this particular crime; by the time the song ends, I’ve lost interest in who is actually going to be falling down the stairs tonight. Six of the eight tracks here exeed the five minute mark and I’m not convinced that any of them need to; “Bulldozer Love” manages to make the strongest case but even it peters out at nearly nine minutes. Blank Realm could use an editor; there’s potential for a great pop band in here, but their kitchen-sink tendencies overshadow that throughout the entire album.