[30 October 2001]
“A girl stopped me and insisted I was Blaike and that she’d known me years ago. She was pretty and I was single. What was I supposed to do? She wasn’t very happy when I told her a few weeks later that I wasn’t Blaike.”
—From Blaike’s website on why his nickname is “Blaike”.
Blaike’s real name might not be “Blaike” after all, but his music is positively bland to say the least. This young Brooklyn/Jerseyite has created an album of sensitive singer-songwriter fluff that would make even Barry Manilow blush. But where Manilow does indeed write the songs, Blaike’s stabs at baring his poetic soul are often too much to digest because they are so hard to take seriously.
It’s the old wearing the heart on the sleeve act that has dogged many a sensitive light pop crooner in the past, and it’s the exact thing that makes Blaike’s album suffer so much. For starters, Just Taste It has to be one of the worst album titles that Spinal Tap never used. Blaike says that he named the album that because “ thought it was similar to when someone offers you a new food. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. Just taste it once because you never know if it might become your favorite.”
Blaike has been compared to the likes of Cat Stevens thusfar. It’s probably because of his raspy vocal delivery more than anything else. As far as the music goes, there’s nothing here to even remotely suggest that we have another composer with an “I Think I See the Light” or an “On the Road to Find Out” up his sleeve. Instead, Blaike writes and sings the kinds of songs that often make for good fodder in a daytime soap, adding a good dose of cheese to any melodramatic atmosphere.
Blaike plays most of the instruments himself here, and invariably it sounds like a pet project. The production sounds strangely compressed, as if it were mixed down on one of those fashionable, “affordable” boards from the late ‘80s that were often found down at the local community college. Not that a thicker production would have brought anything out in Blaike’s songs; they’re too lightweight to register beyond a sigh. But perhaps a more “live” sound would have made somewhat of a difference here.
Favoring a double-tracked guitar technique, Blaike brings all the dippiness that one would expect from an artist that would deliver such lines as “Things haven’t changed that much / Probably not at all / We do one for ourselves / Let someone else take the fall”. And while Blaike is undoubtedly sincere behind these weak lyrics, his singing is enough to send one dashing for the eject button on the CD player. He has this awful tendency to make up for his complete lack of singing ability by vocalizing in a shaky voice that more often than not winds up turning one syllable words into two. On “Be Careful What You Wish For”, Blaike hits us with “We could go ou-uht into another world / I still don’t know what I was looking for-uh / I let myself behind and follow this girl / I thought I had seen something I . . . I hadn’t seen before-uh”. Suddenly, a harder, out of tune lead guitar line pops in and Blaike sounds determined. But he doesn’t rock.
There are a couple of moments in which he does try to pump a little life into his songs by bringing friend Craig Sanderson in to add some drums and percussion, but for some reason the drums sound at best like a pre-programmed machine keeping the beat. It might be because of the thin production, or it might actually be a machine, but whatever the case, the more “powerful” songs, like “I Laughed” feel awkward and stiff. Not that the other, tender tunes such as “Sanity” (which sounds like a bid for “Silent Lucidity” territory) don’t, but at least they don’t sound as forced.
Perhaps these songs could be better in someone else’s hands, but frankly Blaike has an extremely nasal voice that just makes the songs hard to take, let alone decipher at times. At certain points while listening to this disc, I found myself replaying certain lines over just to try and figure out what Blaike was trying to tell me. He’s a good enough guitarist, in that music-teacher’s-room-in-the-back-of-the-guitar-store kind of way, but Blaike has a long way to go in both songwriting and singing before he creates anything worthy of note. Just Taste It is, by and large, just a bit of a drag.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/blaike-just/