Blacklisters – Adult

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I thought I knew my local scene well.

Blacklisters, a noise rock quintet from Leeds’ busy scene, have been active for a good few years. Releasing their début album BLKLSTRS in 2012, with songs such as ‘Trickfuck’ and ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’ featuring both eccentric music and accompanying videos, [1] it’s weird how I’d somehow not heard them mentioned before. Being a big fan of both The Jesus Lizard and Shellac, two bands Blacklisters draw from in their noise rock formula, I was annoyed at what a treat of a band I’ve been missing out on these last few years.

Three years after the release of their début comes sophomore Adult. As heavy and as enigmatic as BLKLSTRS, Adult shows a band maturing whilst still remaining as fun and mad as ever. Despite their niche, the five-piece pull out more tricks, with a larger attention to detail and a broader sonic scope than their début, creating a selection of 10 songs that are as well-written as they are chaotic.

Starting the album off is ‘Shirts’. A tumultuous guitar riff slowly builds into the verse, but the song’s confirmation is formed when the rest of the members join Dan Beesley’s gruelling guitar line. As each chorus grows bigger and louder than the last, and a Battles influence of building repetition through shifting riffs and technicalities (mentioned in my interview), the song does a lot with itself for a three-minute opener. And considering it’s rather repetitious, that’s really quite the achievement; one of Blacklisters’ best tricks is pulling off repetition without creating drag.

Rolling in straight afterwards is ‘Cash Cow’, a track vocalist Billy Mason-Wood describes to be ‘so commercially viable, that money will literally fall out of the sky and into our eyes.[2] Although complete polar opposite to what he claims, the song still moves heftily and is as noisy as hell. With Mason-Wood’s shrieking vocals more acerbic than ever, and an ending that resembles that of Nirvana’s ‘Tourettes’, Blacklisters again prove themselves as experts at their craft.

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Dynamic highlights come later in songs such as ‘Weasel Bastard’. A track obtaining clear Shellac hints, a shifting bass riff, and a slow textural and dynamic crescendo, the pay-off in this simple yet unpredictable track is top-drawer. ‘Dream Boat’ similarly deviates from their heavier songs, swaying rather than jabbing: clean, strummed guitar and abrasive chordal stabs from guitarist Dan Beesley make the song add and take as it builds and falls. Billy’s vocals shift from in-your-face to almost inaudible, adding crowd-like background vocals, the song is considerably more laid back than anything else on the album. Akin to Placebo’s ‘Lady of the Flowers’ gone noisy, ‘Dream Boat’s change in the album’s flow allows the LP to not run dry on its own ideas, creating different sonic landscapes without disbanding from their formula.

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Compared to other noise rock luminaries, such as early Swans, Sonic Youth and Shellac, what Blacklisters do isn’t entirely novel or different, but there are still plenty of interesting ideas and developments that will bring light to the genre. Songs such as ‘Power Ballad’ are a prime example. The first half will appeal to the more punk rock/hardcore types, whilst the second half shows the more quintessential noise rock inspirations. As the structures moves and bends through different inspirations, the song’s mix of influences from the old of The Jesus Lizard, to the new of Pissed Jeans, all work together to make “Power Ballad” a great mix of the old, new, and the different.

Closer ‘Downbeat’ is one final highlight, but for a different reason. Starting with a repeated, on-beat and low swung guitar note, the eight-minute track is the final beckoning call for Adult. Riding on repetition, the buildup in this track is far more unpredictable than the ones that came before. After a huge crescendo, the song dissolves down into a moment of silence before a modest arpeggiated guitar riff completes the album. Starkly different from everything else heard before on Adult, ‘Downbeat’ is as mysterious as it is satisfying.

While the album is full of top-notch moments as described above, there are a few low points. For example, the crudely named ‘Priss’ [3] quickly becomes dry. The heaviness of the riff is not quite as endearing as it first appears, and although there’s a dynamic shift within the middle section, for a song with such aggression and intensity, the shift feels out of place and the song fails to fulfil what it seeks out to do. It functions well on its own, but in the context of being the album’s penultimate song, it fails to deliver.

Despite this, what Blacklisters have produced is a noisy, cathartic and brilliantly 21st century attempt at noise rock. There may be a clear formula, but with such well-organised songwriting, Adult proves itself not only as an album that explores the best of what the genre has to offer, but also what heavy music on the whole has to offer. There’s no better time than now to get into Blacklisters.

Footnotes
1. Music videos for ‘Trickfuck’ and ‘Clubfoot by Kasabian’ respectively.
2. https://www.teamrock.com/news/2015-06-02/exclusive-blacklisters-unveil-first-song-from-new-album
3. www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=priss

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About Author

Obsessive music listener, tea-drinking fanatic, musician, and multi-instrumentalist. I like big choruses and chord sequences that make me go "ooh, that's tasty". I also like really naughty, nasty sounding stuff that makes me throw that face that's like "that's disgusting, but I like it". Living in Nottingham and missing Yorkshire every day.