Sunday, February 22, 2015

When Blacklisted Grows, People Go

I thought they were gonna write longer songs. It's Blacklisted, though. It's never quite what you expect.

The return of Blacklisted feels spartan. No interviews. No teaser trailers. No touring. One assumes Deathwish Inc. co-owner Tre McCarthy cajoled the band into doing pre-order packages and a music video. "Oh, by the way," Blacklisted says, "here's a new full length. You might like it."

You know the story. Philly hardcore band does two full lengths worth of traditional mosh, loses a couple members, grows weird and mutates into something stranger and more compelling.

In between all of this, US tours, EU tours, Japan tours, everything falls apart. Blacklisted breaks up twice, once in a London Urban Outfitters. Vocalist George Hirsch attempts suicide (he talked about it at This Is Hell 2013 or 2014, I forget which), allegedly goes to prison and records an acoustic album under the name of a character from a book called Der Wehrwolf.

The previous Blacklisted release (So, You Are A Magician?) was about nine minutes long and three songs. When People Grow, People Go is 21 minutes and eleven songs. I get the impression of men returning to their boyhood love of the genre. The fast tempos and final cathartic seconds before the song cuts short are all here.

When People Grow, People Go is about the things you don't talk about. The sense that you're desperately stuffing your slimy, slippery intestines back into your stomach. The lyrics include:

-A friend's in prison for opiate addiction.
-The continued disintegration of Mr. Hirsch's relationships with friends or lovers.
-The many kaleidoscopic expectations of Mr. Hirsch as "guy in a hardcore band."
-His struggles with depression.

Unlike in No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me, the venue of one minute plus hardcore feels like a more comfortable venue for the lyrics.

A step backwards perhaps, though that implies that the quality isn't there. It is. When People Grow, People Go still a traditional hardcore record more than anything else. The tracklist and song lengths don't lie, but it's shoegazey and grungy in spots and I remember those parts more than I remember Gossamer or Riptide. Though Riptide does have a really cool "maybe I'll break somebody's jaw" moment. Gossamer and Riptide are serviceable and perhaps good (many bands would be happy to author the songs), but are ultimately forgettable. Can George write another batch of lyrics regarding people gossiping about him? Sure. Do you really want to hear it? Nah.

Foreign Observer has the only guest and that's Nick from Cold World singing the title through a vocal effect that makes him sound distant. Speaking of equipment, if you have ever wondered what a proper hardcore band would sound like through major label recording equipment, producer Will Yip's Studio 4 answers the question here: massive and clear.

Everything has space in the mix, with special attention paid to the drums. Describing it analytically is a minefield since I understand very little about mixing and mastering, but the recording feels correct and the drums sound exquisite and sharp.

It is hard not to look into the lyrics. It is hard not to take Mr. Hirsch at his word. Turn In The Pike begins with "they will kill you for your dreams" but continues "so what I need / is for you to shake me / when I start to drift to sleep." Mr. Hirsch is a man who knows the price of dreams and the price of art, and he's honest enough to say that for him the price is too high.

"when creation fills my mouth / just break my teeth"

I have trust issues. I believe Mr. Hirsch does too. I celebrate (literally, I danced around my kitchen when I first heard Insularized) a new Blacklisted record because it feels like someone else who understands how much of a gamble intimacy and sex are, and what can be taken from the person on a losing bet.

The final track (also the title track) is an object lesson in being alive and male. You want to do it on your own, but you know you can't. And asking for help is cheating or it's impossible. "I couldn't just call your name/Too proud to reach out when I was dying…" If it feels like a dirge, well, it is. What I get out of Blacklisted records is the acknowledgment that all is not well and the nerve, only occasionally, to admit it in public.

When People Grow, People Go is a record about abuse, given and received. It's about moving past the abuse or moving away. It feels ugly. It feels true. It's the best record this year.

The first song from this record, and also my favorite. Maybe this should be the single. Between this and Foreign Observer, you might actually get people outside our genre to listen. But whatever. You're reading this, you know my tastes. Play loud.
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