As you probably guessed, Blackfield II is the band’s second offering. Following up their 2004 self-titled, Porcupine Tree mastermind Steven Wilson and Israeli pop star Aviv Geffen collaborate on a more personal level here, recording in person in Tel Aviv and the UK. Still, II is a somewhat fragmented offering, particularly in the lyrics.
Maybe “fragmented” is the wrong word. Let’s use “bipolar” instead. The collaboration, which was started as a means to express the duo’s love of over-the-top orchestral pop acts like ELO, has morphed into something completely new and orchestral in its own right. Geffen and Wilson’s states of mind are apparent in the lyrics, and a comparison of them has the album split among songs of love and longing and songs like “1000 People,” which Wilson begins with the line “1,000 people yell, shouting my name and I want to die/In this moment I want to die.” Hardly a fluffernutter sandwich of bubblegum pop.
Musically, the album is somewhat referential, with the verse melody of the Geffen-led “Miss U” reminiscent of “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before,” that now-surreal cross-cultural collaboration between Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias. Whether that’s intentional or not is impossible to know without asking. The chorus in the aforementioned “1000 People” comes off with a similar arrangement to The Beatles’ ’90s reunion track, “Free As A Bird,” too. Maybe Geffen and Wilson are paying homage to their heroes. Maybe a wah guitar is a wah guitar. Who knows?
Highlights include “Epidemic,” with its guitar-led rhythm and the somewhat Porcupine Tree-esque cynicism of “Christenings.” “Where Is My Love,” a bonus track on the re- release of the first record, makes an appearance here, leading into closer “End Of The World,” which is enhanced by an air of regret and a western guitar line.
Of course, it’s a Wilson production, so the arrangements are lush, the harmonies perfect and the sound crystalline. Each song sounds as though it’s been sculpted from clay and sanded smooth. Even when they say “fuck,” it sounds pretty.
You don’t need to be a Steven Wilson fan to appreciate it—not that it hurts—all you need is a soul and an appreciation for well-made popular music.