Blacklisters had what you might call a classic build-up to their debut album establishing themselves first on the Leeds scene and then going further afield, and building a substantial following thanks to some high-profile support slots and festival shows.
It was support well-earned, though you’d be forgiven for thinking that frankly, they didn’t give a fuck about any of that: they were all about sonic mayhem and playing their balls off to whoever turned up. Their manic energy and total irreverence that drew people to them, and it’s fair to say that ‘BLCKLSTRS’ didn’t disappoint.
So how about the follow up, the so-called ‘difficult’ second album? Pah! They sure as hell haven’t sold out, and if anything, ‘Adult’ is even more brutal, benefiting from a richer production that really captures the full force Blacklisters live. It’s a dense and truly relentless racket that makes no apologies for anything, and instead clouts the listener hard, like a length of scaffolding wielded by a violent psychopath.
‘Shirts’ is as strong an opener as you’ll hear all year. Built around a heavy, churning riff and a wall of noise that threatens to bury the vocals, it’s a bona fide belter. If it doesn’t quite match ‘Trick Fuck’ in the scheme of the band’s repertoire, it’s easily on a par with ‘Club Foot by Kasabian’ and slams in hard, like ‘Trouser Minnow’ as performed by The Jesus Lizard.
This is no stab at commercialism: there’s nothing here that suggests Blacklisters want to broaden their fanbase with choruses and melodies: in fact, quite the opposite is true. ‘Adult’ is a testing album, in the best possible way. The riffs come crashing hard and heavy, but as is characteristic of the band’s sound, the bass actually provides much of the drive and the melody while the guitar brings texture and above all, blistering, brutal noise in squalls over the top.
‘Weasel Bastard’ has the math-rock tightness and taut slow burn of Shellac with a tension that drags on the nerves to the point of being close to snapping. It also fully exploits the quiet / loud dynamic, exploding toward the end into a gut-shredding blast of noise. ‘I Knock Myself Out’ starts with a bassline lifted from Shellac’s ‘Crow’ but shortly bursts into a vicious sonic assault strong enough to make it stands as one of the album’s high points with its angular stabs of noise and thrashing tumult propelled by a frenzy of drumming that hits right in the solar plexus amidst a squall of feedback.
Because of the change in tempo, the slower ‘Dream Boat’, which almost reveals a softer side, is a real standout. It makes optimal use of the loud / quiet dynamics: think Nirvana’s ‘Aneurysm’ and so on. On steroids and in the midst of a psychotic episode.
‘Power Ballad’ is a manic bass-led assault. All the power, none of the ballad, it’s a classic example of the band’s humour and a doles out a gut-churning battering to boot. ‘Priss’ is pain ugly with its relentless bludgeoning of a single chord, before closer – the eight-minute ‘Downbeat’ grinds its way to a punishing finale.
‘Adult’ certainly marks a development from their debut. Denser, harder and even more brutal, it’s a ball-bustingly heavy duty blast of noise that’s hard to fault. No two ways about, it, ‘Adult’ confirms Blacklisters’ place in the top flight of noisy guitar bands around now.