Fantastic Man by BLKLSTRSRelease date: August 28, 2020
Label: Buzzhowl / À Tant Rêver du Roi
Leeds noise punks BLKLSTRS, or Blacklisters if you prefer, return with a third album bursting with raw energy and unstoppable forward motion. Recorded live in a day it yells “get in, loser” at you, squeals away from the curb and barrels along in top gear with neither time nor care for diversions or comfort breaks. They have not got serious and experimental or broadened out their sound. Fantastic Man is nine chunks of relentless pounding drums, serrated guitar and agitated yelling. It is bracing and delightful.
First track ‘Sports Drinks’ arrived earlier in the summer with a righteous and funny video that plays off toxic corporate motivational ad-speak against the sunburned and pudgy reality of guitarist Dante’s limited basketball skills. It’s human, honest and hilarious. Assumptions have to be made, and these days you need to be careful with that, but BLCKLSTRS do not seem happy about things. Their fury is balanced by a sense of the absurd “I’ve got a strange face, look at my strange face” goes the second tune called, err, ‘Strange Face’. Not that you can make out most of the lyrics, even when the guitars drop out late in the tune Billy Mason Wood pushes his vocal from a conversational sing song to the point of incoherence in a couple of bars as the tension builds. It’s a nice touch.
When I first heard ‘Sports Drinks’ it reminded me of USA Nails. Interesting to learn then that since their last album the Nails’ Steven Hodson has joined on bass. His tough churn keeps an urgent momentum under the bursts of squalling guitar. In current terms they’re maybe somewhere between USA Nails and Girl Band, with the obvious shared roots in Am Rep and post hardcore. There’s even a little Big Black in ‘Sleeves’, a standout contortion of noise that suspends clipped guitar shards over thick bass and cranks up the volatility of their sound.
Dante Beesley’s guitar is drained of all organic charm and turned into a vicious machine grind. Half the time it’s like slamming metal doors, at others like the whine of alien insects. At first it seems a bit blank and monolithic as the rhythm section pummels but more space and texture appear with repeat listens. Recorded last year Fantastic Man hits you mostly as a pissed off rail against the bullshit normality it now seems everyone is desperate to get back to. The final track ‘Mambo No.5’ finds Mason Wood wearily turning over disappointments as the band chant “this is normal” until he eventually declares “this is not normal.” It slows down, dragging towards its end. Slouching towards Bethlehem perhaps. The old world is dying and chaos spills out.
BLCKLSTRS are not the sort of band to address this intellectually, it’s more that they sense it intuitively. In fine noise rock tradition their music is a curt ‘no’ to prevailing deceptions, a defiant and gleeful dance in spite of an idiot world. Crank it up.