Blinder – Calamity a Foot Behind

Calamity a Foot Behind

I’m stunned – I’ve actually been blessed with a CD that is extraordinarily unique to me. Based on my previous listening experiences, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything with quite the bent that Blinder’s Calamity a Foot Behind has. The structure of the band is simple enough – female singer/guitarist, bass player, and drummer, but it’s the songwriting that really sets Blinder apart. Calamity a Foot Behind sounds like a jazz record that was accidentally recorded by an ‘alternative’ band, and the effect is a disc full of somewhat unconventional peaks and valleys based around Megan Wendell’s incredibly strong vocals.
The disc’s beginning track, “Backlight,” perfectly sets the tone of the disc, with Megan’s voice seemingly floating off on a different plane than the rest of the jazz-funk rhythm track. The track takes a downturn and ‘catches up’ with Megan’s voice for a while before returning to its original jazz-funk tempo again. It feels like the vocals are intentionally slightly ‘separated’ from the music here, creating an ‘off-beat’ vibe while also giving the voice a rather unnerving effect. “Cooling” straightens out a bit musically, with the track’s highlight being the guitar/bass/interplay that rests behind an uncomfortably soothing double-tracked vocal to end the track.
“Is It Just Me” builds up another bed of math-rockish guitars, funky bass courtesy of Mason Gray Wendell, and all-over-the-place drumming before caving in to a soaring and melodic chorus, triggered by Megan’s call of “Can I help it if I act a little emotional?” The rhythm section is rock-solid, and the guitar almost takes a backseat to the voice here by shifting into ‘conventional chord’ mode. The album’s standout track, however, is the very angry “You Should Know That.” Megan oozes both hatred and sexuality here, belting out “It was worth it to see you squirm” with all of the intensity she can muster while still managing to sound inviting. The track simmers for a while but ends on an intoxicating build-up with Megan’s voice riding a wave of her guitar and the well-paced drumming of Koven Smith into an abrupt, yet fitting ending.
By the time the angry notes of “You Should Know That” abruptly disappear, Blinder have pretty much laid all their cards on the table. Still, the band’s sound is unique and complex enough to warrant the rest of the listening experience. “Two Car Garage” features some nice guitar/bass interplay, while Megan once again pours her strong vocals over the track like syrup. The guitars create the atmosphere of urgency as Megan calls “Hold me down and hold me tightly,” and the ensuing ‘alarm guitar’ is built up well by a thumping bass piece and some quick-lick drumming. “Put Your Cookie Home” is more of the same, making use of no less than three distinct rhythmic portions before finally ending on the same note it began with. “Carbon” carried the most obvious straight-ahead jazz vibe on the disc, while the somewhat more standard-sounding “Pieces” is Megan’s time to lash out, as a frantic guitar backs up her claims that “I am not gonna shut up and take this.” The backing track steps up to an even crazier pace as Megan growls, “You don’t know what you’re looking at, boy / Throw it at me, I can handle it.” The disc closes with “No Ground to Speak Of,” which shows a slightly more delicate side to the forceful nature of the band’s lyrics and music.
Blinder’s Calamity a Foot Behind was quite the listening experience for me. While the most worthwhile material on the disc is found in the first four tracks, the entire sound of Blinder’s full-length is worth of more than a few rotations in the CD player. Megan Wendell’s voice is incredible, and the rhythm section pulls off some great jazz/funk beats. Sadly enough, the band decided to call it quits at the end of May, but that doesn’t mean that Blinder isn’t still worth checking out. Recommended.