Posts Tagged ‘Blacklisters’

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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That 2020 has been relentlessly shit requires no qualification. Its shitness is almost as unprecedented as the unprecedented overuse of the word unprecedented. Only, you’d think that meant there’d never been a plague or viral pandemic before, but there has, so what’s unprecedented is the shitness of the way it’s been managed, on a global scale. Despite the unprecedented shitness, or perhaps because of it, it’s been a remarkable year for new music already, and it’s suddenly just got even better, with a new cut from Blacklisters, far and away one of the most outstanding noise rock bands of the last decade.

‘Sports Drinks’ prefaces the arrival of a long, long, long awaited new album, Fantastic Man, due out in August. And it’s a fucking belter. Check the video here:

Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of the debut album by Leeds noisemongers Irk is already out in the public domain, as is my admiration of their capacity as a live act. It was only fitting that they should launch their debut album at Chunk, the rehearsal space which has become the hub of the new Leeds underground / alternative scene which has begun to emerge since the Brudenell – still the best venue in the country – has become increasingly popular and catering ever more to bigger-name acts. And there’s no escaping the fact that without the tiny venues, the microscenes, the free and cheap spaces where anything goes, there’d be nowhere for the bands of the future to explore and develop ideas free from the limitations of marketability and the pressure to achieve success. Commercialism strangles creativity, and we need the obscure band who want to fuck shit up more than ever in these desperate times in the stranglehold of corrupt, constricting neoliberalist capitalism which is not-so-slowly eroding every real freedom for the ordinary person.

Chunk is so no-budget, so DIY that there’s no licence for tonight’s (free) event: its BYOB, and people file in with carrier bags containing four-packs and the atmosphere is just so laid back that my anxieties about finding the place (Chunk is hidden through a door up some steps (which I worry I may fall down on my way out) next to a car repair place in an industrial area two miles out into the arse-end of nowhere) and all of the other stuff I panic about but tend not to talk about evaporate almost immediately. There are friendly faces, faces I recognise, faces I can chat to, and it feels more like a house party than a gig.

Only, there’s a gig PA and there are bands, and Beige Palace are on first. I note that they’ve been using a quite from a review I wrote of their live debut on my only previous visit to Chunk in the summer of 2016, which says ‘Beige Palace make sparse-sounding music that’s jarring, dissonant and hints at a clash between early Pram and No Wave angularity.’ Two yeas on, it still seems a fair summary. ‘It’s not math-rock’, their diminutive and moustachioed front man, Freddy Vinehill-Clifee forewarns the audience before they begin their set. He’s right. It’s atonal, droney, repetitive noise-rock with an almost spoken word delivery. Kelly Bishop’s flat, elongated vowels are reminiscent of Mark E. Smith in the early years of The Fall. They’re bursting with nagging, awkward guitar lines and clattering percussion playing unusual time signatures, too. So, like math-rock, only not. Or something. But it’s not about labels, but the music, and while they’re still rough ‘n’ ready, their confidence and intuition has evolved a lot over the last two years, and they turn in a more than decent performance.

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Beige Palace

It was the release of BRITN3Y that brought deranged Edinburgh 3-piece Britney to my attention, and I’d been itching to see them live ever since. They don’t disappoint. Comprising bass – through a fuckload of pedals; vocals – through an even bigger fuckload of pedals; – and drums, they deliver sonic riots in the form of blistering sub-two-minute noisefests. Occasionally, chuggy riffs and even grooves emerge from the screaming, spasmodic mess, albeit fleetingly. It hurts after two songs. It hurts a whole lot better after ten. The speaker a foot from my right ear is sounding like it’s fucked and they just fuck it harder with a relentless barrage of explosive, brutal hybridized noise that draws on elements of metal, hardcore, and grindcore and Final Fantasy (the victory fanfare is a recurrent feature throughout their set and closes it, too, while the infamous Tidus Laugh from FF X also features). They’re joined at the end by NALA for some screaming vocals to wrap up set appropriately culminates in an ear-splitting wall of noise, and I’m not the only one blown away.

Britney

Britney

It turns out that Jack Gordon still has the copy of The Rage Monologues from the time we exchanged books. He’s read my review of the album, and during our brief exchange, I’m reminded that so many of the people who make art that pushes extremities, in whatever way, are the most pleasant, polite, and mild-mannered people you could wish to meet. It’s their outlet, and it’s what keeps them sane. Better to make brutal art than commit mass murder. Probably. Jack – bespectacled, sporting jacket and chinos and looking like any other smart-casual office worker – is a nice guy. But with the aid of a PA, a backline, and a bottle of Buckfast, he brings the brutality.

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Irk

If the disappearance of Blacklisters from the Leeds scene following Billy Mason-Wood’s departure for Germany left a jagged, gaping hole, then Irk more than manage it fill it with their own rendition of that Jesus Lizard, Touch ‘n’ Go skewed 90s US noise-rock racket. The trio are quite a different proposition and are very much their own people, but the comparisons and local lineage are impossible to ignore. And in this enclosed space, with the volume at pulverising levels and the warmth of community and camaraderie only adding to that of the proximity of bodies, everything comes together perfectly.

7th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Irk have been tearing it up on the Leeds scene for a little while now, and are a band at the epicentre of the DIY scene surrounding the CHUNK studio / rehearsal room space, tucked away in a rough and dilapidated industrial estate a good half-hour hike out of the city centre. It’s an apposite location for the thriving creative community of metal / sludge / noise bands.

The band describe themselves as ‘three polite wee rascals…. who make ugly, angular, noise-fused, math rock, consisting of drums, bass, and vocals’, and as such, belong to the city’s now well-established post-millennium tradition for producing seriously noisy bands who are bloody good. Many have fallen by the wayside, but a lineage of acts that includes Blacklisters, Hawk Eyes, That Fucking Tank, Holy State, Hora Douse, and yes, we’ll throw in Pulled Apart by Horses here, because they’re hardy quiet or genteel, speaks for itself.

I’ve caught them live a few times in the last couple of years, and have even performed on the same bill, exchanging books with front man Jack (I think Life Pervert is ace; I’ve no idea what he makes of The Rage Monologues). I’ve never once been disappointed by their performances, and it’s a reasonable expectation that Recipes from the Bible should sound like the work of a band who’ve been honing their material live for some time.

But by Christ, Irk really give it some here, and forge the title: this is a sonic concoction that cooks up the most unholy racket going. ‘I Bleed Horses’ begins with a howl and a barrage of frenetic drums and a mass of guitar racket. While you’re picking your jaw off the floor, check that tight, compressed, springy bass sound and the churning throb it produces that just about holds the whole squalling mess of discord together. Less that two and a half minutes in duration, the bled horses bleed out into ‘Life Changing Porno’, another unintelligible blizzard of noise that’s so chaotic it’s not always entirely clear if they’re all playing the same song: the tempo lurches unpredictably and whole racket collides in a spectacularly ugly explosion.

The seven-minute ‘The Observatory’ built around a choppy, cyclical riff reminiscent of Bleach era Nirvana, and again, it’s the menacing bass that dominates as they forge a suffocatingly claustrophobic density. It’s about as close to respite as it gets: with the only other exception being the verses of the lumbering ‘The Healer’, Recipes from the Bible is relentless in its screaming mania and brutal angles. The wild sax action on ‘You’re My Germ’ could be free jazz in another context, but here, it just adds another level of crazed hysteria to the mix.

Taking obvious cues from Shellac and Blacklisters, it’s a set of sharp-cornered, serrated brutality that stops, starts, shudders, judders, jolts and jerks – but unlike Shellac, Jack’s raving, gibbering, rabid vocals break free from the tight limits of the coiled tension of math-rock tropes and instead cut loose and careen into the wild noise of The Jesus Lizard. Snarling, howling, drawling and slavering, there’s something cracked, even psychotic. In combination, it’s a tense, intense set that sound deranged, dangerous: at times, its really quite uncomfortable. That’s a clear measure of success.

Chances are, reviews will tout this as being ‘uncompromising’, not least of all on account of it’s being self-produced by the band (of course). But Recipes from the Bible goes beyond that. Way beyond. It harnesses the full force of the band: so often, bands draft in producers only for the sound to be polished, slickened, rendered overtly ‘studio’. By keeping things in-house, they’ve retained the rawness, and the sheer velocity and unbridled power that defined them, and the sonic vision remains unadulterated. And beneath all of distortion and dirt, the ragged, jagged edges and the feel of a style of playing that’s loose and uncontained, there’s a remarkable and deceptive degree of precision.

It’s hard to find fault with Recipes from the Bible: there isn’t a weak track or an ounce of fat. There’s no filler, and no slack. There’s not a moment of tameness or timidity, and instead, they bring top-level ferocity and relentless fury, and the chances are you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better noise-rock album this year.

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Irk - Recipes

Too Pure – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

With Billy Blacklister’s recent relocation to Germany, there were likely to be questions over the future of Leeds’ masters of abrasive angular noise. The arrival a new three-tracker as part of Too Pure’s singles club series answers them: their first new material to be released since their second album, Adult, in October 2015, is absolutely fucking blistering.

It may be hard to believe, but they’ve actually gone one louder, one heavier, one more ferocious than the previous release here. A tangle over overdriven guitar wails over drumming that’s up front and pure Shellac leads the assault on Dart. The bass is brutal and Billy’s vocals are sharp and full-lunged. They’ve not gone for hooks, instead going all out for battering ram brutality, all with their trademark hint of mania.

‘Disco’ and ‘Drag’ both clock in at under three minutes (the latter only just breaking two). On the former, sinewy guitars skew angles across a nagging bass groove. Funky it isn’t. On the latter, chords stab like daggers as the whole thing lurches at pace to an abrupt halt.

Lyrically, the songs are largely impenetrable, but this isn’t music to muse to: Dart is a violent, visceral experience – and one of the best things I’ve heard all year.

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Blacklisters - Dart