Welcome to Roquentin’s travelling imaginarium and horizons-expanding circus of non-metallic metal things! In this episode, we take a look at the bleak inner world of a record filled with rowdy, angsty music!
Leeds-based foursome Blacklisters’ sophomore release Adult is a cynical punch in the face accompanied by a sardonic smile. An eruption of sickening bile gestated for years in pools of angst spat by generations of punk, hardcore, and noise bands. An ugly and vile record that does not try to veil that special brand of English contempt reserved for everyone and everything. Are you enraged enough to join their party?
Adult succeeds exactly because it doesn’t try to hide its bitter, gnarly face; on the contrary, it parades it and takes pride in it. While the music might appear utterly off-putting and headache-inducing when approached in an exuberant mood, visiting Blacklisters’ world whilst dwelling in the threatening, primal corners of the soul often translates into a revelatory experience. Their variety of noise rock, clearly based in the traditions of (post-)hardcore, straight punk, and post-punk, doesn’t carry any sort of revolution nor much originality in it, but is instead repurposed to project the agony and dread of those genres’ roots into a modern setting. This approach simultaneously brings them closer yet drives them further away from legends such as The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Big Black, or even mclusky. Their attitude is, in its infinite acerbity, even reminiscent of Sleaford Mods, but instead of reciting their disgust, they shout it at the top of their lungs. Their cards are thus slammed on the table right from the start: “Shirts” is the sound of a heavy-duty tractor, forgotten in time and dug up from some other era, dragging the listener through dirt and bushes, scratching and hurting. “I’m not messing around, I set a good example”, spouts Billy Mason-Wood sarcastically, yet honestly, predicting the “message” contained in the album’s ten oxymoronically “short and sweet” tracks.
There’s no doubt that Adult shows Blacklisters in all-around better form when compared to their début BLKLSTRS, which is a considerable achievement given that release’s quality and the limited possibilities of growth in their niche. But progressed they have: the songs here are better structured, with a recognizable in your face attitude, and generally harder hitting. Whether it’s the pure punk/hardcore of “Cash Cow” and “I Knock Myself Out,” the discordant abrasiveness of “The Sadness of Axl Rose,” or the slowly rolling, pulsing rhythms of “Big Ticker,” “Weasel Bastard” and “Downbeat,” Blacklisters deliver with great aplomb. Confident while shifting gears left and right, their sound is that of a crushing live band that somehow managed to capture most of that live energy on a record.
Much of that is probably down to the fuzzy, closed-in, and lo-fi production that projects a raw, “live” sound around Dan Beesley’s filthy, crooked riffs and the disjointed but driving rhythms of Owen Griffiths on bass and Alistair Stobbart on drums. Finally, mix some pretty incisive lyrics with the absorbing music, and you’ve got yourself a really good package. As expected from this kind of music, the lyrics deal either with social issues and incite all sorts of socially unacceptable behaviour or try to juggle superficially personal, but universal issues. “Power Ballad,“ for example, sounds like a fucked up anthem dedicated to all the disastrous breakups in history. Shouting the lyrics with the band is assured to provide some sort of release. While this might not be metal, the frame of mind should certainly be fairly familiar to fans of more aggressive metal genres rooted in hardcore (especially Slayer) and it might even appeal to sludge aficionados.
As the last song, the post-punk anthem “Downbeat,” slowly and quietly marches to an unexpectedly disconcerting end, you might feel relaxed after expunging all accumulated anger. If not, rinse and repeat. Because Adult is an album tailored around the suppressed anger brought on by everyday life, a soundtrack to all the small defeats and unsolvable problems that keep on coming. A disturbing album that will shout “FUCK YOU!” in your face. Go ahead, shout with them.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Smalltown America | Handshake, Inc.
Websites: blacklisters.bandcamp.com | blacklisters.co.uk | facebook.com/blacklisters
Release Dates: EU: 2015.09.18 | NA: 10.16.2015