Posts Tagged ‘Blacklisters’

Human Worth – 4th November 2022

That I’m a huge, huge fan of Human Worth is probably quite apparent by now, or really ought to be. As a label, they’re the absolute model of the cottage industry DIY label with a social conscience that’s matched by the quality of the music they release. How many labels can you name where absolutely every single release in their catalogue is an absolute fucking banger? And now, it gets even better, as the community spirit can be seen to be an integral aspect embraced by the acts on their roster, as the assemblage of the appropriately-named Fucking Lovely indicates.

Well, it probably depends on your taste, of course: it’s not lovely in the lilting, floral, melodic sense – more in the ironic or sarcastic sense, as this EP is every inch the gnarly barrage of noise you’d expect from the Human Worth alumni who feature in the lineup, which the bio describes as ‘an evolving noise project brought into being by Joel Harries from 72%. Featuring Luc Hess (Coilguns / Closet Disco Queen) on drums and Thomas Lacey (Cower / Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) on vocals.’

They go on to detail how this record ‘came together through shared connections with Human Worth and brief meetings playing gigs in 2019’; and that ‘the music grew steadily from the initial guitar and drum machine tracks into the frantic and unnerving songs of “Catalogue Of Errors”’ which were ‘recorded remotely between the UK & Switzerland’. It seems like this is the way collaborations will happen from now on. This is probably a (rare) post-pandemic positive: distance and scheduling are no object when it’s possible record at any time and from any distance.

This feels like there is absolutely no distance: it’s the sound of a band playing at ten thousand decibels and right in your face, so harsh and full on that your eyes pop out of their sockets.

It’s brief and intense. Four tracks of jarring, jolting, stuttering riffs and shouting pitched against one another at obtuse angles and colliding against one another in the most awkward and ungainly fashion, for maximum ugly impact and packed into less than ten minutes. Oh yes, it’s fucking lovely alright. It makes your skin crawl and your hair stand on end, it makes you clench and quiver , makes your shoulders tense and your neck stuff. ‘Billy Boy’ is gnarly and full-tilt Jesus Lizard psycho, all dirty guitars, gritty bass and twisted manic vocals. ‘Maximum Exhaustion’ is a soundtrack of relatability, relaying the staggering, stumbling, lurching delirium of fatigue beyond fatigue – also known as life.

The full-on earth-shattering hardcore of ‘Bricked’ draws the EP to a close with samples echoing around low in the mix and the words inaudible, and while angry, sludgy acts are disparate but numerous, I’m reminded of Blacklisters here.

It’s a gloriously demented racket, and it hurts. And it most definitely is absolutely fucking lovely.

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The buggers keep doing this: disappearing, then coming back, with no forewarning, no fanfare, with more killer noise.

And so here we are: ‘Leisure Centre’ crash-landed today to herald the imminent arrival of a new EP, out next month.

It’s as good as anything they’ve ever done. ‘Leisure Centre’ has the same kind of nagging, repetitive riff that features in so much of their work, from the definitive early songs like ‘Trick Fuck’ through to more recent classics like ‘Shirts’. And if anything, ‘Leisure Centre’ sounds like ‘Shirts’ on heavy tranquilisers: slow, stumbling, lunging, all the weight and all the murk. And of course, it’s all about that big, churning riff. It sounds a whole lot like Pissed Jeans. This is very much a good thing.

If the rest of the EP is half as good, it’s going to be a corker.

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Gold Mold Records – 7th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Moni Jitchell don’t piss about, and in deference to that attitude, neither shall I: this EP is an absolute blinder. Crashing in somewhere between Blacklisters, and Daughters, or like Pulled Apart by Horses on speed, it delivers five fast ‘n’ furious cuts in as many minutes, and it’s not hard to figure how the Glasgow duo scored a slot supporting Mclusky earlier in the year with their brand of irreverent, full-throttle shouty noise that’s too angular to be punk, but too punk to be metal, and too metal to be math… The fact they’ve appeared alongside Leeds noisemongers Thank is perhaps a fair indication of the kind of racket they make.

Only they make it louder and faster, and distil everything to the most absolute optimum potency. The songs are formed, with defined structures and ‘clear’ shape – but compacted to black-hole density, clanging and slamming every whichway, frenetic, kinetic, jarring, jolting, whiplash-inducing blasts of sonic violence.

Grant Donaldson’s drumming is solid and holds everything together through wild tempests of stuttering, stop/start guitar that veers between driving riffs and splintering shards of atonality. The vocals are manic, screamed, and unintelligible, but it doesn’t really matter, as there’s no time to dwell on these things. There’s no time for anything at all.

‘Not a Change’ is a mere thirty—three seconds long, with guitars that buzz like a helium-filled wasp trapped in a hot greenhouse. ‘Split’ is only a second longer, while the ten-second ‘Skelp’ is over before it’s even started.

It’s one of those short sharp shocks that leaves you stunned and sweating, and completely buzzed.

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Christopher Nosnibor

The last time the once-ubiquitous Blacklisters graced us with their presence in Leeds was back in 2017. A lot has happened since then, including some substantial geographical ones for the bandmembers. In fact, there was a time when it seemed as if the band was no more: following the release of Adult in 2015, things went quiet, bar the unexpected release of the Dart EP in 2017 via Too Pure. The arrival of Fantastic Man in 2020 came as a surprise. A welcome one, but a surprise nevertheless. Consequently, tonight’s double-header with associated / offshoot ace USA Nails is a cause for excitement: their fifth album, Character Stop, released just last month is a truly outstanding example of the angular / mathy / noise genre. And what a lineup!

In a late change to the advertised schedule, Care Home’s debut is shelved, with the band replaced by Hull noisemakers Cannibal Animal. Sound-wise, they’ve changed a bit from when I last saw them back in 2018 – less swamp-gothy, more post punk in their leanings, less claustrophobic and with more breathing space in the songs. Yet for all that, it’s very clearly the same band.

Cannibal Animal

Cannibal Animal

The set lands with a throbbing drone before they power into some hefty chords. They’re not pretty, sonically or visually, but Christ, they kick ass. Strolling basslines and wandering spacious guitars shifting into ball-busting riffs. Busting bad moves throughout Luke Ellerington makes for a compelling and charismatic performer as he leads the band through a set that sounds like a collision between Pissed Jeans and The Fall.

The guy from BELK seems to have got his dates wrong and has come dressed for Hallowe’en – or at least made-up for Hallowe’en. The Leeds act are a screamy thrashy guitar and drum duo. They’re as heavy and fuck and there’s a mental moshpit from the off. Shifting pace and dynamics nonstop, it’s primitive and brutal with full on frenzied riffery and screaming vocals. Everything about their sound is abrasive, jarring, angular, although at times it’s a shade thin, and they possibly would benefit from some bass.

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BELK

USA Nails don’t only benefit from some bass, but place the bass at front and centre to powerful effect. And that bass has that ribcage-rattling tearing cardboard sound reminiscent of Bob Weston. The emphasis may be on attack and hard volume, but they fully exploit the dynamics of these. The two guitars are often still for the verses bar feedback, bursting into life for the choruses. Along the way there are some expansive bass-led spoken word stretches that call to mind The Fall, with frequent forays into hardcore punk. It’s a strong set that flips between sub-two minutes and longer workouts, and it’s all killer.

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USA Nails

With the last train to York departing at 23:13 and Blacklisters not due on until 11pm, I was presented with the option of disappointment or sleeping on a bench. I gather that they were good, though, and just hope we don’t have to wait another four years.

NIM – 17th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As labels go, Iowa-based NIM is pretty new: established only last year during lockdown, it has to date put out just five releases, initially showcasing the work of those directly associated with the label or otherwise close to its contacts – which is so often how DIY labels begin. Artists unable to find an outlet, or otherwise feeling no affinity with any particular label or scene, decide to carve their own niche by setting up for themselves. And before long, they’re not only putting out their own stiff, and stuff by their mates, but have started to build a roster.

It’s all about ethos and ethics: labels who start up because there’s a gap in the market for the music they want to hear and therefore make it themselves are very different from labels who set up with the express purpose of being a label. But NIM clearly have some ambition, as the release of the debut from Health Plan earlier this month indicated: featuring members of Blacklisters, Dead Arms, USA Nails, and The Eurosuite, they’re something of an underground noise supergroup, and the release felt like quite a coup for the label. And then, there’s this…

Again, it’s a million miles from mainstream, but in terms of pulling together some highly respected – and incredibly exciting – cult acts, this is a flagship release, the kind of thing that is almost certain to put the label on the map, in the way that the first couple of Fierce Panda compilations did in the 90s, and thee On The Bone collections some 20-odd years later, showcasing acts as diverse as That Fucking Tank and The Twilight Sad alongside Wild Beasts, Pulled Apart by Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up. On the one hand a snapshot of the time, but on the other, an incredible document and a testament to ambition.

And so it is that Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast opens with a cover of Swans’ ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ by HUBBLE, which happens to be the ambient side project of Uniform guitarist Ben Greenberg, and also features a contribution from Rusty Santos, renowned for his work with Animal Collective, among others, and Obviate Parade, aka Paul McArthur, singer from Damn Teeth – not to mention a contribution from the mighty Health Plan.

Alright, so none of them may be household names, but they all carry some considerable cred in those more niche circles. And, alongside an array of obscuritants, they set out the NIM stall nicely, with an array of dark ambience and noisier efforts. This isn’t about establishing a ‘house’ style or otherwise making a specific statement: instead, this is as celebration of diversity, a divergent array of artists united by their lack of conformity.

HUBBLE’s cover is an almost psychedelic folk, semi-acoustic effort, while Rusty Santos wanders through quite mellow if deep trancebient territory, in contrast to the unapologetic noise abrasion of Health Plan’s ‘Food Grief’ lifted from their eponymous debut. If your tastes are narrow, avoid this: this is one for the eclectivists, and the first three tracks alone are enough to shred most brains.

Gareth JS Thomas’ ‘How You Feel’ stands out as a masterclass in thunderous, percussion-driven abrasive noise, and provides a particularly stark contrast to Obviate Parade’s noodlesome lo-fi neoclassical jazz-tinged meanderings and the frenetic post-punk squall of ###’s contribution, which lumbers hard with a Shellac-style riff and changes direction multiple times over the course of its three-and-a-half minutes.

Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast is challenging, both sonically and in its diversity: the chances are that few will like everything, and many won’t like anything at all. But those who like some will likely find more to like, because it’s a smorgasbord of weird and wonderful, and is a shining example of artistic collectivism, and Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast shows how NIM is a hub for a disparate array of artists who are doing very different things, but respect and celebrate that diversity.

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Buzzhowl Records – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Health Plan’s all-caps bio on their Bandcamp doesn’t really tell us much, bujt it does, I suppose, tell us enough in the pan of three short, declarative sentences: ‘HEALTH PLAN ARE DAN, STEVEN AND FRANCOIS. WE PLUGGED GUITARS STRAIGHT INTO A LAPTOP AND MADE SOME POP SONGS. MEMBERS OF USA NAILS, BLKLSTRS, THE EUROSUITE, DEAD ARMS’. Whether or not that qualifies them as a supergroup I’m not sure, but this emerging hub of intersection musicians is proving to be a fertile melting pot, and on the musical evidence of this, their eponymous debut, they are a super group. And of course, as you’d expect, a noisy one.

The album’s eight tracks are an extended exercise in crashing, droning noise rock, and it’s not intended to be pleasant: this is the kind of music where you marvel at the layers of noise as they scrape and clash against one another, feedback shrieking against low-end-grooves, as reverbs bounce off one another in different directions. And maybe there is something masochistic about enjoying this kind of thing, but it’s about sensation, and feeling the sound batter your body and brain.

‘Post Traumatic Growth’ piles in as an introduction, a mess of buzzing bass, relentless percussion, and squalling guitars, landing somewhere between Big Black and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with additional blasts of exploding lasers and blank monotone vocals.

And this is the flavour of the album: motoric and messy, lo-fi and abrasive. The rhythm section holds things down, albeit muzzed up, fuzzed out and indelicately. It works a treat: the bass buzzes and booms, and the drums thump, and in combination they punch hard. The guitars are toppy, discordant and disco-ordinated, slashing away at angles across the linear rhythm grooves.

When they dial it down a bit, as on the altogether more sedate instrumental ‘Fade’, where a thumping bass beat flutters like a heartbeat beneath a current of swirling, meandering sound, the production is still such that it’s anything but comfortable, and it’s not lo-fi, but wilful awkwardness: there’s a cymbal that cuts through the mix at a mean volume, and it’s not smooth or in keeping, but harsh, crashing, incongruent.

‘Vapid Expressions’ comes on like The Fall, like MES at huis most hectoring in a swelling surge of motoric repetition that drills into your brain. ‘Stuck in a Loop’ lives up to its title, a cyclical repetition of a motif pinned to a relentless beat, providing some kind of lull before the acerbic hollering of ‘Cataract’ that drives it to a finish in a frenzy of sax and distortion.

While so many bands take cues from The Fall, Health Plan do so with real style, and moreover, take as much influence from the band’s stubborn refusal to conform, or to pretty up their sound with tidy production. To my mind, punk has always been about an aesthetic rather than a style – primarily about going against the grain and not giving a toss about anything other than pleasing yourself – meaning that Health Plan is truly as punk as fuck.

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Human Worth- 26th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This one’s been cropping up in my Facebook feed a fair bit lately, and I’m quite ashamed by how long it took me to get around to playing it, given the great work Human Worth do both in terms of music and charitable donations – plus the fact they’re decent guys who I’m proud to know. Shit happens, even in the midst of Lockdown 2.0 where it’s shit mostly because there’s only shit and nothing happens, and mostly it’s simply that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In the event, it turns out the greatest loss is mine, because this album really is something else. How was I to know that this was the album I’d been looking for, that I needed in my life the last few months?

Given the pedigree of the performers who make up Cower – namely Wayne Adams (Pet Brick / Big Lad), Gareth Thomas (USA Nails / Silent Front) & Thomas Lacey (Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) – it would be a reasonable expectation for their debut album to contain a fair bit of noise, but then equally, it would be reasonable to expect it to be a bit experimental, a bit electronic, and a bit weird. How do all of the elements brought by the component parts marry up?

The short answer is remarkably well, and Cower sound like all of the component pats simultaneously, but equally none, as they morph together to forge something truly unique, and also quite unexpected.

It begins in a pretty understated fashion, with ‘Tight Trousers and a Look of Intent’ following the path of a dense, woozy, but accessible dark electro tune. Admittedly, that pulsating bass throb is something you could drown in, but the incidentals and the vocals are quite accessible – although all hell breaks loose just halfway through and it’s wild. Initially, I was inclined to say that as an opening, it was ‘tame’, but that would be unjust: restraint isn’t an indication of weakness, but of controlling the beast. But then, when the beast breaks loose… ‘Proto-Lion-Tamer’, brings the noise, and does it in proper full-on style, a squalling, brawling mess of din – old-school noise merchants like The Jesus Lizard are in the blender with contemporaries like Daughters and Blacklisters to whip up a nasty maelstrom of noise.

Tribal drumming dominates the bleak, eerie soundscape of ‘Arise You Shimmering Nightmare’, while the downtempo mid-album slowie, ‘Saxophones by the Water’ finds them coming on like Violator-era Depeche Mode, and this trickles through into the next song, ‘Midnight Sauce’ that combined a rich, soulful vocal with some chilly synths and blasts of percussion-led noise and cinematic drama that goes fully 3D, to the extent that it gives JG Thirlwell a run for his money.

If BOYS pursues a dark, brooding, electro road as its dominant style, it’s the album’s range and diversity that is its real selling point, and the songs are all far darker than most of the titles suggest. And if much of the album feels pointed, challenging, ‘For the Boys’ is outstanding in its emotional sensitivity. Closer ‘Park Jogger’ in particular sounds like it might be light, even vaguely comedic by its title, but no: it’s a colossal electroindustrial behemoth tat packs some seriously pounding force into its short running time.

With BOYS, Cower surprise and excel: the quality of the songs is remarkable: there’s a real sense of everything having been carefully crafted for accessibility, to the extent that this is actually a pop album – making for the darkest, heaviest pop album you’re likely to hear in a long time.

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Hex Records (USA) / Bigout Records (Europe) – 23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For what is essentially a side-project for some of its members, USA Nails have sustained a remarkable output since their inception in 2014, with Character Stop being their fifth full-length release.

It is less full-on, less manic, and less of a messy blur than the bulk of their previous works, but the energy is still very much present, manifesting in a sound that’s more defined, more sharply focused. Which means, in short, it’s more like being attacked with a saw than a hammer. That said, there’s no shortage of blistering punk assaults: ‘I Am Posable’ is a furious flurry of slurry, and hits the spot hard.

We’ve already been given a flavour of the album with the short sharp shocks of ‘I Don’t Own Anything and the opening track ‘Revolution Worker’ both of which combine the growling bass rumble of Shellac with skewed guitars and a motoric beat, and consequently comes on like an early Fall outtake being covered by Tar, and it’s fair to say they’re wholly representative of the album as a whole. Well, don’t you just hate it when you buy an album because of a great single only to find the rest of the album is absolutely nothing like it, and it’s crap to boot? Maybe it happens less now in the digital age, but I used to find that a lot back in the 80s and 90s. Anyway, what this means is that if the prefatory releases appealed, then you’ll be happy to get lots more of the same, while conversely, if the singles didn’t do it for you, then you’re really going to find this a chore.

Recorded in just four days at Bear Bites Horse in London with producer Wayne Adams, Character Stop is urgent, immediate, and raw, and the songs are all brief and more angular than a great-stellated dodecahedron. And yet for that, it’s not math-rock, nor does it really belong to any specific genre, unless jolting, jarring, slightly discordant shit is a recognised genre now.

The album’s longest track, clocking in at four and a quarter minutes, ‘How Was Your Weekend?’ slows the pace and darkens the tone, with a stark, post-punk feel, a tone vocal paired with a thumping metronomic beat at tripwire tense guitars, and likewise the stark, jittery ‘Preference for Cold’. The bass shudders as it runs hither and thither, while the guitars crash in splintering shards. Elsewhere, if ‘No Pleasure’ filters The Stooges through Black Flag and slips its way through at a hundred miles an hour in a torrent of sweat and angst, it’s still got a vaguely post-punk tint to compliment its hardcore hue, and ‘Temporary Home’ is all about the motoric thud. It’s also got something that sounds like a chorus and a bit of melody, although it’s soon swallowed up in a scream of nail-scraping feedback and racketous riffage.

You wouldn’t exactly call Character Stop a minimalist work, but it is often stark, almost contemplative, going beyond all-out thunderous noise to explore dynamics and contrast. In short, it’s a cracking album.

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London based noise/punk band USA Nails have launched the 2nd single from their upcoming album ‘Character Stop’ which is set for release on 23rd October through Hex Records (USA) and Bigout Records (Europe). You can watch the video for short and sharp single ‘I Don’t Own Anything’ which clocks in at just 1 min 23 seconds.

USA Nails feature current and ex-members of Sly & The Family Drone, Blacklisters, Kong, Oceansize, Silent Front, Death Pedals, Future of the Left and Dead Arms.

Guitarist Gareth Thomas comments,

At the risk of sounding like a dick; this song is about millennials and zoomers. Generations who have been shafted by their parents, who can’t afford anything, who live on zero hours contracts, and who are currently experiencing a mental health epidemic. They are blamed for their own misfortune because they like to eat avocados sometimes. It’s also got a beat that’ll get your toe tapping.

And with all music being streamed via Spotify and YouTube, no-one even own their own music collection any more. Which also massively sucks.

Check the vid here:

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Buzzhowl Records – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Anyone who was around Leeds’ live scene about ten years ago will have likely experienced the bludgeoning racket of Blacklisters. When it came to jarring, psychotic noise-rock a la The Jesus Lizard, they were beyond awesome in both volume and intensity, and they had songs, too. Most bands aspire to producing a body of work, but the reality is, any band that can craft one truly definitive song, then they’ve achieved more than more than 99.99% of bands. With ‘Trick Fuck’, Blacklisters nailed it, and in doing so assured their immortality. While for my money the rough and ready EP version was actually better than the one that appeared on their 2012 debut album, that riff… oh, that riff. Fuck, man. That riff. Anyway, the rest of the debut was absolutely belting.

They went a but quiet on the live scene, but second album Adult, which benefited from a beefier production found them on killer form, and with lead single ‘Shirts’ they actually matched ‘Trick Fuck’.

Geography and life kept them quiet thereafter, with just an EP and compilation of EP cuts and radio sessions keeping things simmering over the last five tears. Yes, five whole years.

But in the bleakest, most barren of times, after an eternity of lockdown, Blacklisters unexpectedly deliver album number three. Its arrival was heralded by the dropping of single cut ‘Sports Drinks’, which opens the album and is an instant classic. It starts with a sinewy guitar then the rhythm section hammers in at a hundred miles an hour and it’s the most driving, energised, manic things they’ve recorded to date. It’s tense, crazed, Billy’s indecipherable yelling half-buried under a punishing squall of guitar.

‘Strange Face’ is another explosion of noise that makes ‘Club Foot by Kasabian’ sound like loungecore, and is so lurching jarring and warped it makes The Jesus Lizard sound soft. The title track, up next, provides no respite, pinning down the kind of cyclical riff that marks all of their best songs, and once more evoking the best of early 90s Touch and Go, particularly Tar.

There is absolutely no let-up here: ‘White Piano’ is furious and it’s back-to-back with the brutal bass-driven feedback fest that is ‘Le Basement’. And that’s what differentiates Fantastic Man from its predecessors: it’s tighter, tauter, than anything they’ve done. If before their tightness was in some way disguised by a squalling sloppiness, the playing on Fantastic Man is rigid muscular, gym-pumped and vascular.

‘I can Read my Own Mind’ is the album’s one moment of levity, with hints of Bleach era Nirvana in the messy mix, but the soupy morass of guitars all layered up in a knot of noodly treble is knotty and takes some wading through, especially with the fuzzy-edged vocals – and then it goes a bit Dead Kennedys, only like a DK 45 played at 33 and the effect is cranium-splitting.

The final track, the six-and-a-half minute Shellac-like rhythm driven mess of nastiness that is ‘Mambo No. 5’ isn’t a cover, just as ‘Club Foot by Kasabian’ wasn’t a cover, which is Blacklisters all over – irreverent to the last, its comedic value is twisted by its sonic brutality. And fuck me, it is brutal: they’ve certainly saved the most violently noisy for last, and it clanks and squalls in a thunder of rums and snarling bass.

It didn’t seem possible, but with Fantastic Man, Blacklisters have taken things up another level. The hooks may be sparse, but the slanted, angular riffs are harsh and heavy, and from out of nowhere, this could well be their best work yet. Fantastic and then some.

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