The London duo of Samuel ‘Blob’ Gough and Amir Alam moved to Los Angeles to soak up the west coast rays and form Blind Boris. Obviously inspired by the melodic rock scene of the late 702 and 80s, the debut album sounds for the most part like it was made thirty years ago in the glory days of The Eagles, at the start of Bon Jovi’s career, back when it was acceptable to brandish the badge of ‘soft rock’ with pride.
Setting an uneasy mood from the start, Blind Boris doesn’t start well. Opener Rain Song tries too much and tries too hard, moving from acceptable smoky country-rock to ridiculously over-the-top howling in four minutes. A shame that they feel the need to do this from the outset and fall flat before they have even started. That said, the intro is superb as is the first display of vocal harmonies from the band led by Gough‘s wonderful vocals - like a smooth sandstone.
The great news is that from this shaky start, Blind Boris is packed with magnificence, each song a brilliant example of a great new band in the making. It makes you wonder why and how these guys, who make such an incredible noise, don’t have a record deal. Skin And Bone is majestic stuff but the album doesn’t really take off until the sublime Already Done, beginning slowly and delicately acoustic before a predictable yet honest blast of rock brings in the chorus. Then back to the fragility building up to another. The song is controlled and focused, even when the guitars kick in it never oversteps the mark, and ends as deliciously as it started.
From here there is a mix of full-on rock and folky ballads. Travelling captures a modern Led Zeppelin at the band’s most mellow - Robert Plant on one of many journeys of self-discovery. In spite of this obvious influence, Blind Boris let a new personality wash through the sound. More great guitar work in the last thirty seconds before an acoustic outro. Looking For A Way Out continues this laid-back approach, fusing in piano and a dreamy arrangement, complete with another soaring guitar solo, it just about holds it together to the end.
So far so good and the album is settled and focused with only a few mild moments of self-indulgence. From The Deep is more Zeppelin folk-rock. Burning Hole returns to the dirty rock with a vengeance and the best guitars on the album. An excellent drum arrangement announces the big outro which is not as huge as it could be. There’s A Chill is one of the most modern sounding songs Blind Boris delivers, stuck somewhere in mid-tempo and not deciding what it wants to be. A slight lapse as Heaven Spun is a master class in vocal harmonies and the proof that sometimes less is more definably more. Gough is supreme. The closing song A Little While is completely different but just as good, another perfect rock song, building from quiet to loud through a five minute duration. Gough comes back after a quirky guitar solo and in the last minute he sticks to an odd falsetto
If you take Blind Boris on face value, it is a hugely enjoyable album. In the same way that every new band in the UK is determined to relive the glorious musical renaissance of the 1980s, Blind Boris is doing the same thing…for 70s and 80s soft rock. The album is delivered straight, no tongues in cheeks and embracing the sounds and textures of those bands that excelled in guitar-led melodic rock. At times excellent guitar-work, keyboards and harmonies bring in a guitar solo that could go on for five minutes and it would have made parts of the album an instant classic. But the band never stray into prog-rock and keep things punchy. Going retro is nothing new. Some bands take the influences and copy them directly and others turn them into something new and fresh. Thankfully Blind Boris falls into the latter category, even if it is only just.
-- CS (for Altsounds)