Blacklisters’ Guide To ‘90s Noise Rock
Billy from Blacklisters takes us on a whirlwind tour of the heaviest, noisiest bands of the 1990s - and explains how they all feed into the new heavy sounds of today
This is a piece about what music has had an effect on us, how it has influenced the band we are - and who we have stolen from. We'll be focusing on 1990s “Noise Rock” in particular - but I may stray a little if it seems appropriate, so forgive me for my misgivings.
(Also some of this may be wrong, I know what I know and some of it I may have made up in my head at some point and then passed it off as fact without even realising and for that too I apologise.)
Blacklisters take a lot of influence from a lot of bands, but if we're being honest about it they all carry similar factors. It won’t come as too much of a surprise if I say that the first of these bands that really made a lasting impression on us was The Jesus Lizard.
The Jesus Lizard are so solid from the drums up, that by the time it gets to David Yow he has free reign to do what he wants - while you're allowed to relax and feel like anything and everything is alright.
I think that it's the sense of joy that I love about bands like this. So much heavy music is heavy in content - but I don’t want to listen to heavy music to identify with how sad someone is about their relationships with their parents. There is a place for it, but being angry because you need a cuddle doesn’t make me want to jump around. The Jesus Lizard do, they are unhinged and deranged but they are also joyous and fun and you feel totally welcome when you are listening to them.
It wasn’t far after them that Shellac, Big Black and Rapeman became pivotal and showed us, I think, that you could do what the fuck you wanted when it came to writing a song.
If you wanted to play one slow riff for 8 minutes with no drums and a couple of guitar stabs that was totally fine and more often than not, amazing. It was that same freedom that says if you want to write a song about a squirrel then you should. Shellac in particular are a big influence, they really do just do what they feel like and what they do with the balance of instruments is almost perfect.
I think if you have those bands as your foundation then the obvious thing to do is to look at what was going on around them at the same time - and then eat them alive and use their bones as instruments.
Bands like Breadwinner, whose only album Burner is one of the best things I've ever put in my ears. They were an early instrumental Math Rock band, who have that incredible snare sound, like Lightning Bolt or Don Caballero, that shakes you to your boots.
Slint were another band that made a massive impression, especially when it came to writing our album; that down beat, dark sound which they manage to get without losing any of the menace.
The other thing that you do is listen to the labels - and with Touch and Go and Skin Graft you have two Labels whose ethics stand up: they operated with the bands - and not the money - in mind, and there's something about that that somes through in the music.
Bastro, Dazzling Killmen, Scratch Acid, The Didjits, Killdozer, Rodan and Mule all came out on those labels - and so they represent a place where, if I’m stuck for something to listen to, I’ll see what they have to offer.
Big ‘n are one of those bands that I stumbled on - and by god they are great, so fucking ruthless and raw. They play riffs which progress rather than having massive changes for choruses or breakdowns. The singer, such as he is, grates against you more than anyone I have heard - it's just somewhere on the edge of horrible, which makes you wonder why it is you are wanting more.
Their split with Oxes - another brilliant band - is an absolute joy to listen to. Witty and clever, raw and uncompromising. They like others around them welcome you in only to kick you in the face, tell you they were joking, pick you up and then do it again all with a big smile on their face. As far as I know they only released two albums, Cut Throat and Discipline Through Sound. The latter is on ITunes and the other is somewhere within the internet.
Closer to home are Kong - who I can hand on heart say are by far my favourite band. I think they do all the things that the bands I have mentioned here do, better and with more gall. They are so good, totally throwing away conventions for the pure pleasure of seeing what they can do.
They manage to do things that are really really complex without you losing the ability to nod along or without you ever thinking it is just wankery. There's only one album out so far - but it's one hell of an album and if you like 'noise rock' it should be owned.
We've been lucky that Leeds has thrown up some amazing examples of heavy alternative music, Pulled Apart By Horses and Hawk Eyes being the most well-known. But it has not just been them doing it. Having bands like That Fucking Tank, These Monsters and Humanfly right there on your doorstep; sadly defunct bands like Whores Whores Whores, Red Stars Parade and my favourite, the short lived Galleons - all setting a bench mark so unattainable when we were first starting out that it made us want to be the best that we could be with what we had.
To finish up, here are some bands I haven’t mentioned that I think deserve a listen. They are just off the top of my head so I will have forgotten loads. They are from all places at all sorts of levels of success but all have something that I want to hear I hope you do to.
Take A Worm For A Walk Week
Art Of Burning Water
Drive Like Jehu
The Swan King
The Real Fucky Fucky
Shield Your Eyes
* If you can help with my need for more, please post below or post it on our Facebook or Twitter. I WANT MORE THINGS IN MY HEAD!
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