[sic] Magazine

Black Swan Lane – Vita Eterna

‘Criminally ignored’.

It’s one of music’s great clichés but never has it been more apt than for Atlanta collective Black Swan Lane. Whilst we at [sic] have been steadfast champions, covering each and every album release, (Vita Eterna is their eighth) these guys can’t seem to catch a cold elsewhere. One immediately thinks of bands like Catherine Wheel, Adorable, The Chameleons and even The Sound – all terrific, ‘under the radar’ acts that didn’t quite land with audiences and/or critics to the extent that their music deserved. Black Swan Lane (BSL) occupy a comparable sonic landscape with only a fraction of the fanbase. The Chameleons are the most obvious and tangible touchstone, not least because various ex-Chameleons have collaborated on different BSL releases. That much-missed Manchester act dissolved for the second and final time in 2003. Since then BSL have been fanning the embers of dreamy, Mancunian post-punk better than any other. Yet nobody knows them.

It just isn’t fair.

The last BSL album, the sensational Under My Fallen Sky, was released toward the end of 2017. That’s a gap of almost two years and yet Vita Eterna somehow feels quick on its heels. Despite line-up changes there’s a sense of business as usual here. Showrunner Jack Sobel always had a penchant for front-loading his LP’s with rockier numbers. ‘Pure’ and ‘The Prisoner’ (see video) continue this tradition – the former driving and purposeful, the latter high octane in the vein of previous ‘singles’. However both are too linear to showcase the band at their very best. ‘Shadow Of The Stars’ certainly does though, as does ‘Condannare’. Both are unimpeachable album highlights, the latter being one of several to feature original Chameleon, Dave Fielding on guitars and e-Bow.

Elsewhere songs such as ‘The End Is The Same ‘and ‘Tears’ are standard BSL fare, perfectly serviceable and instantly recognizable to any fan yet something remains amiss. Against BSL’s own high standards, something is holding this LP back. The problem is that individual songs work fine but the record just doesn’t hang together as a whole. It’s not bad per se. There’s only one real car crash, namely the attempted sludge/glam rock of the ironically titled ‘Happy’. The rest is a puzzling mixture of styles. Some inclusions are reminiscent of the bands formative, playful years whilst others feel as though they belong to BSL’s darkest, coldest period. As a result Vita Eterna lacks identity. In addition the sleeve artwork is too gothic in leanings. This may seem a minor nit-pick but it gives the wrong impression of the band. Most disappointingly, the lyrics sorely lack the emotional pull of previous works.

BSL already has a huge body of work and, by definition, not everything can be a “standout”. Hopefully this release is just a blip – a rare fail but with lessons learned. That said it’s a pleasure to see and hear the legendary Dave Fielding once again. There is quality here if you sift a bit. Lovely backing vocals push the record in a welcome, Slowdive direction at times. Plus both ‘Condannare’ and ‘Shadow Of The Stars’, are worth the admission price alone. This said, Vita Eterna remains a collection of good songs rather than a great album. In many ways it feels like a placeholder release rather than BSLs true artistic statement for 2019.

I still love them.

Vita Eterna is released November 26th. Preorders begin Oct 23rd.

Editors note. If you order the CD they’ll already send it out now.

Find Out More

Editors Albums of 2017

Under My Fallen Sky – review

BSL Album retrospective.