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Monday, December 19, 2011

Blindside -- The Great Depression


Man, this is a good one.
At some point in late 2004/early 2005, Blindside's vocalist/lyricist, Christian Lindskog, took a trip to South Africa. He was emotionally devastated by the things he saw there, from people living in extreme squalor, to orphaned children dying of AIDS. Upon his return to the Western World, he realized something even more devastating: many people In America and Northern Europe, despite having every necessary resource available at their fingertips, despite being in good health, with doctors and medicine never out of reach, despite having televisions more expensive then most of the people he had just left's houses, were absolutely and completely depressed. This shocked and angered him, and this dichotomy, between the appalling situation of the needy in the third world, and the woe-is-me attitude of the privileged in the first world drives The Great Depression.
These themes aren't spelled out, nor do they hammer the listener over the head. There isn't anything preachy about The Great Depression. The album simply travels through Christian's anger and sadness at the things he has seen and the restoration of his own joy through Christ. Also, the irony of the fact that he himself is depressed isn't lost on him. This all makes for one dark, really honest album, one that a lot of fans weren't ready for.
The change in sound may not have been expected either. While there was a huge sound change between the first two independent releases, and the two major-label releases, the two major-label albums are pretty similar in style. For a lot of the newer fans, the major-label version was the only Blindside they knew. This isn't major-label music. This music is raw, desperate, and wounded.
Check out "Put Back the Stars," one The Great Depression's more beautiful tracks.

It sounds like the band is crawling through thick mud in the dark. Every instrument and the vocals are given moments to struggle. I think a word I would give to each musical element on this album is "sacrificial." Everything does what is needed of it, when it is needed. If the guitar should be minimal, it is minimal. If it needs to be loud and in the forefront, it is there. Chops never get in the way of anything. Nothing is fighting to be the star. Every element is working together.
On "Ask Me Now," for instance, Simon Grenehed's guitar is content to let Tomas Näslund's bass handle the main riff for the verse until he takes over the chorus, and both are content to let Marcus Dahlström's drums carry the song.

Blindside also don't use heavy as a gimmick. When Christian's anger is at its height, the album is at its most intense. For instance, "Yemkela," a song about a sick child Christian met in Africa (the piano outro in this song leads directly into "Put Back the Stars.")

Wasted disposable dying scum
Two months tops before silence replaces your small beating drum
Isn't that what we're all waiting for
So we can go home and celebrate our good life

But I feel gun powder
Burning under my skin
Don't say another word
You might set off a spark
Cause i've got gun powder
Burning under my skin

Take me back to tv-land
Numbness is a safe zone
They never trained me for reality
I'm a reality-tv clone
Now did you say your 10 going on 11?
Something is terribly wrong
Somehow I'm dying with you

But I feel gun powder
Burning under my skin
Don't say another word
You might set off a spark
Cause I've got gun powder
Burning under my skin


There are no gimmicks here. Honesty is the name of the game, and whatever Blindside were feeling musically and lyrically is what is there unfiltered on The Great Depression. They recorded this at home in Sweden without executives staring over their shoulders, and with a friend as producer, and it shows.
The Great Depression is also easily the most musically diverse of Blindside's albums, but everything flows organically so that every song feels at home.
"My Alibi" is almost a techno song but doesn't sound the least out of place.

One factor that might explain why the kids didn't jump all over this album:
Blindside don't sound like kids on The Great Depression. Stand-up bass, violins, and sophisticated lyrics may have been too much for scene children.

That was "This Time," The Great Depression's penultimate track. Perhaps what I just said in the previous paragraph is ironic, too. The next track, album closer, "When I Remember," starts with the line "The boy is gone." Lindskog isn't referencing an African orphan in that song. He's talking about himself, and he is right. This is a heavy album for grown-ups that isn't always heavy, but is always heavy. It doesn't have to rely on theatrics or show, but does whatever is necessary whenever it is necessary. Instead of over-indulgent orchestration, all Blindside needs to hammer the final chorus home is for Lindskog to screan "my skin! my bones! my soul! my feet! my love!" instead of sing it. That kind of subtlety makes an album about the biggest topics in the world seem more intimate than...well, I hate that word, but that's what The Great Depression is. It is intimate, intense, honest, and one of the best works of art any Christians have ever produced. I hope one day it is recognized as such.

2005 DRT Entertainment
1. The Great Depression 1:27
2. This Is a Heart Attack 3:10
3. Ask Me Now 3:34
4. We're All Going to Die 3:00
5. Yemkela 3:38
6. Put Back the Stars 3:57
7. Fell in Love with the Game 4:07
8. City Lights 3:13
9. We Are to Follow 4:02
10. You Must Be Bleeding Under Your Eyelids 4:56
11. My Alibi 4:33
12. Come to Rest (Hesychia) 4:29
13. This Time 4:47
14. When I Remember 4:27

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