The Heavy Blinkers

Better Weather

(Brobdingnagian; 2002)

By Scott Reid | 16 April 2003

Described on the back of their own album as being “lionized as a pop music’s great hope,” the Heavy Blinkers had the bar held high for themselves on this, their third full length release. As if the album’s cover wasn’t enough to bring up immediate connections to the High Llamas, their obviously Brian Wilson-influenced sound and knack with lovely harmonies (the verse and pre-choruses of “Far As You Are” could’ve easily been a part of an XTC cover of “Add Some Music To Your Day,” while its chorus echoes “Happy Hour” by the Housemartins in a pleasing way) would certainly bring them comparisons to O’Hagan’s bastardization of Wilson’s production genius and mid-to-late ’60s thematic ideas. It’s a realm the Blinkers had explored much more on their magnificent self-titled release in 2000.

But I digress. This whole review could surely be about different ways of stating how much of a genius Brian Wilson was up until roughly the time “‘Til I Die” was released, and how bands like the High Llamas and the Heavy Blinkers manage to somehow get this pop thing right. But this album deserves a better write-up than that—especially since, for someone who grew up on the east coast of Canada, it’s surprising that a band from the wintery depths of Halifax would be one of the few bands attempting optimistic, summery pop true to Wilson’s golden years, let alone doing it this well, this uniquely. You see, where the Llamas had often failed to bring something fresh to the SMiLE-era dissection table, the Heavy Blinkers manage to infuse their obviously Wilson-inspired pop with an edge that stands to compliment, not rely on, their influences. The beautiful vocal interplay between Ruth Minnikin, Jason McIsaac, and Andrew Watt being one of the most appealing aspects of the album, but surely not its sole worth. The jazzy swing of one of the album’s few ballads, “I Used to be a Design,” is a stunning addition, as is the E6-ish charge of single “Helicopter Blues.”

Better Weather proves the Heavy Blinkers more than capable of writing and presenting terrific pop music that is as much an original statement as a homage to the inspirational pop perfection they may never quite reach, but hopefully will never stop attempting. Unlike the High Llamas, this isn’t a failed attempt at reaching the heights of SMiLE, Wild Honey or even Surf’s Up; it’s an experiment that starts with the inspiration from beautiful music and ends with something that’s all their own.