Porcupine Tree’s Steve Wilson has released a greatest hits album! But don’t get too excited Sadly, it’s for that pop side-project you probably didn’t know or had tried to forget about.
Blackfield is a collaboration between Wilson and Israeli musician Aviv Geffen, and Open Mind (KScope) is a complication of the band’s five albums worth of material condensed down into one long hour. This is a straight compilation; most of the band’s singles, the rest evenly drawn from the rest of the discography, and no new or even rare material for the hardcore Blackfield fan (if such a thing exists).
Wilson has previously said that Blackfield is all about “the art of a great tradition pop song of verse-chorus-verse-chorus”, and for the release of Open Mind, he added the project appealed to him because “it was a chance to focus firmly on the art of the classic pop song with concise songs and strong melodies, harmonies, orchestration, and a very lush ‘golden’ production.”
What that translates to, for this compilation, is almost sixty-minutes worth of inoffensive, self-pitying shortish pop songs. There’s the odd Porcupine Tree-like moment scattered about, but anyone hoping for a surprise helping of winding songs, solos, or even an exciting riff will be left very hungry.
The title track is probably the best one on show; opening with some sweet CSNY-like harmonies, it builds into what is easily the heaviest moment on the entire record with its ‘Kashmir’ like stomp, but sadly even that track struggles to sustain the interest.
From there, the likes of ‘1,000 People’, ‘Oxygen’, and ‘October’ straddle the unenviable position of being terribly bland and forgettable; a numbing mix of piano refrains, strings, and overly emotive vocals with pithy self-pitying lyrics. There are odd moments within songs that are listenable – there’s quite a good bridging riff hidden within ‘From 44 to 48’, while ‘Once’ combines sweet pop that almost has a Keane vibe about it and a moment of pop-punk riffing – but for the most part it’s just not worth the effort.
Considering Wilson’s status as a leader in the field of progressive music, it’s amazing how dated some of the material on here sounds. Despite every Blackfield album being released after 2004, most of the songs sound like forgettable mid-chart one-hit wonders from the mid-to-late nineties.
Ghost is a poppy rock band with memorable hooks. Blackfield is not. If you’re a fan of Aviv Geffen, there’s probably something in here for you. But listening to Open Mind feels like very a long hour, and even die-hard completist fans of Wilson might find this hard to swallow.