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Blind Man Leading, 'Swords'( Handout )
LISTEN: Blind Man Leading, "Swords"
RATING: ** out of 4
In late August outside the 8x10 in Federal Hill, the members of the Baltimore indie-rock trio Blind Man Leading filmed a short video explaining the intentions of their second EP, "Swords."
"There are things that happen to us in life that kind of pierce us and can cause us to feel uncomfortable pain, feel all of these struggles we all go through. And when we're pierced like that, we're kind of reminded of how our lives aren't all together," said guitarist and singer Dave Wentz.
Judging from the lyrics of "Swords," unrequited love is the culprit. On the mostly somber ballad "Lighthouse," Wentz uses an extended metaphor to describe the pain that seems constant throughout "Swords."
"You were a lighthouse, now a sharp coast, and you're spending nights wrecking boats / That night wasn't dark from the sky but from your eyes," Wentz intones over barely-there instrumentation. The six-minute song eventually builds to a musically exciting intensity, but it's bogged down by Wentz and his repeating of the mawkish line, "But I can't risk the danger of your arms."
"Lighthouse" illustrates the main problem of the five-song "Swords." The music -- a straightforward brand of indie-rock influenced by Coldplay ballads and math-rock -- is played well enough, but the lyrics keep it from ever rising beyond banal complimentary words like "pleasant" or "nice."
The best song here is the opener, "Sword in a Stone," because the musicianship does the heavy lifting. In comparison to its first release (last December's "The Bostonia EP"), the band -- which also includes bassist Tyler Wheeler and drummer Paul Mercer -- spent more time working together as a unit in the studio. The result included vocal harmonies that add brightness to the EP's monochromatic feel.
But even when the band's execution is locked in, the lyrics limit the songs' potential. "The rumblings of your unrest have set your teeth on edge," Wentz sings. Like plenty of lyrics on the EP, it's a line that's too wordy and too confident in its own cleverness. The adage "It's not what you say but how you say it" applies too often to "Swords." -- Wesley Case