When was the last time a great British band really grabbed us by the scruff of our collective neck, and roughed us up a little? The last time a homegrown act emerged fully formed, oozing attitude and wielding such a fierce command over the way they sounded, the way they looked, even the way they swaggered?
Okay, this isn’t a pub quiz question, and there isn’t a prize for answering correctly, so let’s just say it’s been a full 20 years since Knebworth, since Oasis changed British music in a way not seen since punk 20 years before that. And so now, sweet mercy, here comes The Blend to remind us that music in the 21st-century can still be raw, and vital, and real - and thrilling, too.
“We know how good we are, because there is simply no one else around us right now that compares to us. We are already making music on a level that other bands take years to reach, and we’re not embarrassed to say it. Our debut album is the best debut that you will ever hear.”
That’s Dylan, Dylan Smith, 18 years old, and a man with, quite possibly, the world at his feet. He is the singer and frontman of The Blend, full of leer and self-belief, and determined to take today’s moribund music scene and give it a swift kick up the arse.
“As a band, we’ve got a lot of anger,” he says. “A lot of anger and a lot of passion, and we pour it all into our music. Why else you think it sounds so powerful?”
The band’s debut, All Departures - recorded on analogue and so tailor-made, surely, for the current vinyl revival scene - certainly sounds just that: powerful. And as far as introductory statements of intents go, it wholly convinces.
The Blend comprise Dylan upfront, his 16-year-old brother Freddie on organ, and Francis Whitley, also 16, on drums. On stage, the band are complemented by 18-year-old Ethan Harris, bassist and devotee of John Entwistle. The two Smiths are originally from Coventry, but
are now based in North Devon, where the quartet bonded over an ardent love of British rock and a desire to become immortal themselves.
Dylan, always precocious, had first picked up a guitar by the age of five, and was soon strumming along to his favourite band, The Who. “When I was eight, my dad took me to see them play live,” he says, “and that was pretty much it for me: music was all I wanted to do.” They formed the band when, strictly speaking, they should have been paying more attention to double Geography and their looming GCSEs. Instead, they welded Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend’s vitriolic flamboyance to Freddie’s swirling cacophony of Hammond organ vibes, and quickly began to sound seriously good.
They’ve played live wherever and whenever they can - once invited to headline a show in Vienna before an audience of thousands - and have been busy pressing demos into the hands of everyone of influence they’ve ever encountered. And, through sheer force of personality, they’ve encountered many such people already: members of Iron Maiden, Johnny Marr and Zak Starkey. Their early music so impressed legendary producer Chris Tsangarides (Thin Lizzy, AC/DC) that he offered to produce their album, and it was later mixed by Andy MacPherson, the man behind The Who’s Live at Leeds, and one of the band’s heroes.
“Andy said that Francis’s drumming was the closest thing he had heard to Keith Moon,” says Dylan, beaming.
All such youthful braggadocio, of course, would count for little if The Blend didn’t have the music to back up the mouth. But they do. All Departures does not sound like a typical debut album but rather the work of craftsmen. It’s a huge almighty noise, an unneutered bull in a china shop, Dylan channelling both the spirit of Daltrey and John Lydon with the kind of knockabout energy that leaves bruises, and encourages you to turn the sound up loud.
The first single, Don’t Waste My Time, features an accompanying video that berates everything they consider wrong with modern music, and City Sirens has all the strut and stagger of The Jam. Freddie’s Hammond organ whips up some stonking, James Taylor Quartet-esque rhythms, and if one needs proof that Francis really is possessed by the malevolent ghost of the aforementioned Keith Moon, then
they need only check out the title track. If ever an instrumental required an 18 certificate, it’s this one.
From its mod-baiting cover sleeve - which features the band taking a cricket bat to a fallen Lambretta while a parka-clad mannequin dangles on a rope from a nearby tree - to its up-yours title, this is an album determined to ruffle feathers.
“We’re all about heralding in something new, and getting rid of all the same old tired junk in the music industry right now,” says Dylan. “All that X Factor shit, all those talentless boy bands, all that acoustic lovey-dovey ballad-y shit. Sorry, not interested. Everything today is recorded on a computer, with Pro Tools, and it just sounds weak and bland and the same. That’s why we’ve recorded on analogue,
because we’re all about that live sound, the power, the rawness.
“You know what? I hope our album will upset people, and stir people up. That’s what we’re all about, causing a fuss. Our sound is groundbreaking, and we’ve come along to clear the path for the next big thing: us.”
So, yes, when was the last time a great British band arrived to do all this and more, and with quite so much vim and vigour?
If modern music has rendered us horizontal these last few years, here now comes The Blend to make us sit up again, and pay attention. Prick up your ears.
Watch their new video: