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Blacklisters: This Is Not An Album – Album Review


Blacklisters: This Is Not An Album

(A Tant Rêver Du Roi Records)

Out 14th June

Pre-order HERE

Despite what the title infers, the results Blacklisters offer following their experiment with a tabula rasa in noise rock form – a blank slate until the wounds purposefully left raw ooze through the results with ferocious success, is very much an album. By Ryan Walker.

It’s sort of an album. But not quite.

So what is it? Or what isn’t it?

One could interpret the title in a couple of different ways.

Firstly, THIS is not an album – an indication through the emphasis on the opening word that THIS album, this thing, whatever it is, is the indication of new outputs ahead, the future awaiting thanks to the wrapping up of the past in some sort of sonic conclusion, an encapsulation of fragments the band grabbed at the chance of capturing in a jam jar for fear they would escape and turn into vapours of memory.

This is something different, something else, a precursor to a giant that will soon have its arse poked by a bamboo stick through the bars of a tiny cage.

This is a digression from the centre (there is no centre in this band’s vernacular: they exist on the edge, yet they draw their observational power from the core of the dark cloud that smothers the modern world) from the rest of their catalogue.

This is a prelude with no temporal way of knowing how long it will take to fill in the gap what THIS is not, and whatever the fuck comes next in its wake of such a psychosocial prolapse that shakes the earth back to gas.

This is something uniquely separate from (yet a part of, even integral to) the remainder of their time spent reminding us why that catalogue from here on out is, and always will be, firmly planted in the floorboards of venues that are now voids. For the relationships between the members stretch back decades. There’s blood involved here. Brotherhoods built and connected by punk, survivors of near-nuclear holocausts that witnessed the Leeds/Berlin-based four-piece emerge as a cockroach would crawl, mockingly, mightily, up the side of a rock and laugh at the ashes the planet has now been reduced to upon being scorched by the detonation of an intercontinental ballistic missile’s nipple.

Secondly, this is NOT an album.

Such an authoritative clarification (just in case we were all confused) that this is most certainly not, despite what you may think and believe and read: an album. It brings to mind PiL’s This Is Not A Love Song: riddled with satire and oozing spite, there’s maliciousness in repetition, provocation in hijacking the popular rather than attempting to challenge the industry armed with iconoclastic intent then fading to a pimple on the arsecheek of the bloody thing: This Is NOT A Love Song. And it’s not. It’s the snakebite before the venom truly sets in with PiL’s follow-up, simply, and greater reinforcement of the concept echoed here by BLKLSTRS (vowels are for capitalists, capital letters are sometimes employed) as it was slapped exposed, defiant, markedly obvious yet complex and clever onto the sleeve’s surface that it burned into you: Album.

The same could also be said when thinking of Flipper’s Generic album from 1992: Album on its front like the debut was trying to tell people what the band was selling to them. Generic as a statement of intent that vents all spleens about the state of the germinating landscape surrounding its heinous, hideous, hilarious creation. A landscape infested by scarabs, political marionettes, avalanches of gargantuan panic attacks, illusory cerebral fire escapes, and pads with blunt scourers worn down through years of dirty dish empires: mass poverty snuff film.

Coinciding with Steve Hodson (of USA Nails) joining in 2017, where speed and harnessing the ferocious power of their live concerts can be approximated in the ‘album’ form, BLKLSTRS new album is a collection of tunes recorded in two separate recording sessions. Sessions that took place in 2022 and 2023. The sessions were consistent in their approach as the band entered these sessions empty-handed before commencing: no plan, no nothing.

Within two days this way of working saw them record everything from scratch. A blossom that spawned from their frugal rationale that if something didn’t work, then there’d be no justification for keeping it. The fluff and boredom would be disposed of like a discarded piece of scrap.

However – if something was feeling good, the band would pursue it knowing there was no pressure in being precious about something, embracing the emancipation that way of working brought them rather than battling it out over a bridge/middle-eight/chorus/etc.

What is precious – is the band’s time. To keep it fun. To keep challenging themselves. That’s something worthier of cherishing than the fucking middle eight. An argument that probably wasn’t worth it and is questionable whether the song fares any better for it too, and a means of making music the band intend on pursuing when another album is prepared at some stage in the future, if and when the future can find the time to make itself ready for the band to receive the signals from each other.

Why Deny It? bounces and pounces with a raw techno beat hissing and spitting at the hinges provided by Alistair Stobbart’s tom drum skulls. Stripped to the veins and upheld by a naked bass stripped to the wires, both played on instruments made of bones and cartilage which contributes to the splintering, savage nature of the whole unhinged jig, it stands a psychotic caveman death dance before the band ritualistically slaughter a dyslexic chicken and discover fire in a chord progression.

Personal Training breaks your head off with a bike chain and bakes it in tin foil, a dive bar where Looney Tunes in a noise rock band in doom t-shirts neck diazepam and then aurally reproduces the side effects in spasms of sparking prangs and rampant, rotatory bass crunch.

Elsewhere, Leisure Centre is a cosmic sludge swamp of nightmarish visions and material decay. A slow-shuffling zombie limp with its stomach set on the neck of some poor sap in a semi-detached: predatory, primal instincts reign supreme and find nothing but liberation in the dissonance, freedom in the climactic, discordant sputter.

Most of the songs on here have been released digitally on EPs such as Leisure Centre and Auf Dem Tisch.

But when A Tent River Du Roi, friends of the band’s in Paris decided they wanted to put them out as vinyl, the band added Pity Party and Tech Guy which were recorded in the Auf Dem Tisch session. Songs not actually released at the time.

The group had the whole thing remastered by our friend Wayne at Bear Bites Horse Studio to make it sound more like a cohesive project.

Cohesiveness gives us the aforementioned Tech Guy, added to the album once the album became an interesting possibility as a solidified body of work and the Wrong Way Home. The former working the wheel and do the same thing so many times one loses oneself in the corridors of an insane asylum until reality is a wallpaper pattern to be challenged, and eventually – ripped to litter.

The latter is a bursting barge of repetitive bazooka grooves that eat through your arms and legs like a worm performing cabaret with a toy kazoo. Dark. Dirty. A maniacal feat of jazz noise pushed through unimaginable thresholds and ground into abstract shapes. A prison riot of harmonies half cut on hand wash and involuntary military experiments that make the inmates think everyone looks exactly like their dead cat.

How the observations accrue extraordinary value…ubiquitously resonating through the world as people undergo their private rampages, fuel for internal fires to rise higher. From the art of coupling words in a post-punk pop art tradition that draws attention to the thing itself whilst speaking for an entire consumer society around it, blinded by its international incantation exploited via intravenous entertainment (Dream Boat, Cash Cow, Nice Garden) to more philosophising, ridiculing, lyrical derision (The Sadness of Axl Rose, Clubfoot by Kasabian, Ask Yourself A Question If The Answer Is Go Fuck Yourself), the caustic, comedic lexicon remains ever-strong. A violent irony. An innermost honesty with an intellectual edge that represents, through these references to the innocuous obsessions of the information orgasm, everyone that stands in the way of such a reference pinned to the dissection pan.

Powdered Milk is one such example. We see it everywhere, and nowhere. It takes a punk band from the North of Leeds to make a noise about it. To drench its meaningless, mundane stronghold on us in gasoline then watch it go up in flames when a freshly lit matchstick is held close to the concept of the bloody thing (other equally banal subjects could be: Watchmen Interrogation Scene, Early Bird, Voice Actor, Heat Ray, Tonight With Jonathan Ross, Holy Moly, Petting Zoo, Stamp Collection and Urine Sample).

All cold blood and acid bile, unpicking sutured stitches and punctuating them with something else instead (staples/safety pins/globules of superglue), the desert noise punk caterwaul of its claps and claps and claps and collapses concrete onto itself. Billy Mason’s eye-twitch and demonic howl heaving into the hole the rest of the band burrow into a machine, listless except for the occasional flicker of heat.

Meanwhile, Melting John’s jagged chug charges towards brickwork as a bull would sniff out a matador’s nervous ballsack. Dante Beesley’s lizard-bite guitars evaporate into poisonous fumes of feedback, perfect for Mason’s darkly humourous nihilist sketches to holler into. A similar psychic turbulence is represented in Smart Guy which drives a hammer into the head with all manner of rhetorical accounts as though it was a metal slab. With a skinful of swamp water, sludge fizzing with a visceral, static-clatter edge, it lops the head clean off and leaves it somehow laughing and crying in one prolonged, repeated, unrelenting motion. A song about the memory of the business owner with a eureka-moment fetish and a fondness for wanking into the creases of business management instruction manuals and attempts to inculcate his staff with the same level of brief intervals of joy.

Separate from the scene’s lineage, yet upholding its inspiring credentials, since their 2012 debut to 2020’s Fantastic Man, BLCKLSTRS are a band that moves in their own circles. From one breed of noise to another, a noise evident here as being one interested in discomfort, disfigurement, deconstruction, dismemberment, dissembling the self, they move at their own pace, up close or from outer space, in the ear and just behind it, a circling foursome of sharks that eventually clash teeth as they crash upon the victim in the middle of their curious games.

Heroes uninterested in what time demands of an artist, what barnacled-bodied procedures and offal-tasting obligations of a bygone system aim to encase their rightfully protected and precious tenets in with leg irons, the search history of the universe will have their name upon its ancient mantlepiece, for they remain beacons that others find a sense of belonging when looking towards (or a way out of the corporate quagmire they find their ankles eaten by).

Obviously, this isn’t an album. It’s so much more. But not that not you knew not that right?

~

Blacklisters | Website | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube

Words by Ryan Walker

Artwork by Daniel Holloway

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