Steven Wilson is a man of many talents--and more than three dozen of them are just different ways of making music. Though he's known mostly for his more complex work, his progressive conquests all take a side seat for a moment as he again sits down with Aviv Geffen on the third album from his pop rock project Blackfield, titled Welcome to My DNA.
Though Blackfield is, on the surface, dedicated to the art of the perfect 3-minute pop song, all of the songs nonetheless have this floaty, art-rock quality to them that you don't hear particularly often. Sure, with all of the flair-filled string work, it's easy to dismiss it as your standard pop rock fare, but there is something to the songs that defies normal definitions of accessible music. I find most of the oddness of the music stems from the...interesting choices for the lyrics. They're very repetitive, and oftentimes, almost irrelevant to the music at hand. Sometimes it seems like Geffen sat down, wrote out a cool phrase, and said "We will repeat this phrase over and over until the fact that it doesn't make sense in the context of a pop song stops mattering." "Oxygen" features the jarring phrase "There's no oxygen left on our planet" repeated several times, and, my personal favourite, "DNA" features the title phrase used over and over in only the most disconcerting way possible. Maybe they're just making fun of the tradition of pop music having only the most boring surface-level lyrical content by having their lyrics border on incoherence. Maybe they're just being silly. Either way, they're noticeably different, and I actually find they make the album much more appealing.
And the songwriting is top-notch too. With the express goal of writing pop music in mind, Wilson and Geffen have really hit on some winners. The opener "Glass House" has the makings of a wonderful ballad to it, "On the Plane" does a good job of hitting the sweet spot for sentimentality, and "Blood" goes for the heavier end of the spectrum with only the most delicious chugging. The only issue is that, for all of the enjoyable melodies and riffs, there really isn't that much replay value to the album. It's very upfront and accessible, leaving you with little reason to come back afterwards. Once you've heard it, you've heard pretty much all there is to hear about it. Not to say it's a bad thing--it doesn't get any worse with subsequent listens. It just doesn't change much at all.
That being said, it's still an enjoyable album. It's nothing new, but it's a cut above your standard pop-rock fare. I certainly had fun listening to it, and though I probably won't touch it again for a while, this is actually an album I could see myself revisiting at some point in the future.
6.5 / 10
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