Review: BLACKLISTERS – “Adult”

Adult cover art

The noise rock resurgence of recent years has brought with it a wave of new and exciting artists that help keep the heart of this confrontational genre alive. Bands like Ladder Devils, Sofy Major, Fight Amp and the like have been getting tons and tons of accolades from publications and common folk alike. Although these bands have been around for quite some time, just like the genre itself, people have really started giving a damn in the past few years. Is it thanks to amazing press? Who is to say? Regardless, it is great to see a genre that helped define the underground scene of the 90s back in the limelight. The tools left behind by Amphetamine Reptile and similar labels have been picked up by these newer acts and have reshaped and pushed the noise rock genre further than previously thought possible. Which brings us to Leeds-based outfit Blacklisters and their sophomore album, and arguably one of the best noise rock LPs of 2015, Adult.

It would be easy to write off these maniacal Brits as another group that exclusively worships at the altar of AmRep. But that would be unfair to say. Just like the other bands mentioned in the previous paragraph, Blacklisters continue along the path laid out by The Jesus Lizard, Cows, Hammerhead and the like, only to veer off said path. Blacklisters‘ brand of noise rock is definitely familiar, but is executed with passion and energy and is not afraid to venture off into different sonic realms. Compared to their 2012 self-titled debut, Adult is considerably less manic and disjunctive. That’s not to say the music is devoid of zaniness, as it most certainly is, but the band dial it back this time around for a grumpier, more straightforward bludgeoning record. The guitars churn out raw, metallic riffs that beat the listener to a bloody pulp. The rhythm section only aids in the sonic slaughtering with pulverizing drumming and clanging bass lines. At the heart of it all is vocalist Billy Mason Wood, whose tongue-in-cheek lyrics are carried by volatile range of vocals that include drunken rambling, shrill yells and monotone delivery. All of these elements together, with tiny dash of genre-bending, make for an explosive and whacked out record.

Adult begins with the acidic crawl of “Shirts”, which cycles around a hypnotically repetitive guitar riff that slings feedback and sonic shrapnel everywhere. Wood’s comical spelling of the word “shirts” and the razor sharp, soaring guitar leads during the bridge breaks up the caustic dirge, only for it to bleed back into that devastating and catchy riff. The vitriolic “Cash Cow” follows shortly afterward with a healthy dosage of dissonant, hammering riffs that will have everyone reaching for the nearest bottle of Tylenol in a futile attempt to stop the pain it inflicts. “Big Ticker” begins with a lumbering bass line that walks along with a sense of groove and swagger. The guitars regurgitate noisy, inharmonious wails in a parody of blues while the bass continues its bullheaded march. The guitar-generated banshee shrieks eventually take the shape of atonal chords before evolving a step further into a sludgy stomp that is completely swallowed by noise. “I Knock Myself Out” showcases Blacklisters at their most unhinged. Rumbling, grimy riffs spearhead the song’s concussive verses, while noisy debauchery takes control of the choruses and life ending climax. The two tracks that really show the album breaking its own mold would be “Dream Boat” and “Downbeat”. “Dream Boat” revolves around marching, yet melodic chords that cycle repetitively while Wood mumbles nearly inaudibly beneath. The over eight-minute “Downbeat” closes the album with a lengthy procession of one-note, down-tuned destruction. The song builds choking tension that is eventually released in a wall of corrosive, noisy riffs and sludge-tinged doom and gloom. Attached to the end of the track is a three minute, solo clean guitar section that slowly drifts towards the end, bringing the album to a surprisingly reflective conclusion.

While BLKLSTRS was an erratic release, Adult is a sonically punishing one. Although the band never lose their sense of humor, this new record is meaner and uglier, aurally speaking, than its predecessor. Adult doesn’t have to rely on hyperactive assaults to batter listeners, it does the job just fine with its simpler compositions. Blacklisters are a fun and gloriously disturbed group of individuals, and Adult is a welcomed addition to their discography. If these guys continue along the path they are taking, global domination may be within their grasp.

Rating: 9/10
Label: Handshake, Inc/Smalltown America
Release Date: September 18, 2015
Favorite Tracks: “Shirts”, “Cash Cow”, “The Sadness of Axl Rose”, “I Knock Myself Out” and “Power Ballad”
For Fans Of: Pissed Jeans, Hammerhead, The Jesus Lizard, Fight Amp and Pigs

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