Since making their debut in 2010 with the Shellac-inspired EP Belt Party, noise-rock band Blacklisters have consistently pushed their sound in different directions, from muscular, Part Chimp-inspired sludge metal to sawtooth Drive Like Jehu-style post-hardcore. The Leeds quartet’s latest EP, Leisure Centre, finds the group again stepping into new terrain, adding an ornate art-punk edge to their characteristically hostile sonic assault.
Per usual, Blacklisters take aim at the rich and powerful with a disdainful sneer on the title track, as singer Billy Mason-Wood sarcastically reflects on wanting to go to the titular leisure center. “I wanna live at the leisure center/I wanna give my life to this pleasure center,” he howls, the messy punk dirge bookended by ear-piercing feedback.
On “Why Deny It?,” the band dips their toes into bizarro post-punk with repetitive deadpan vocals parroting the song’s title over a fragmented drum pulse. The hypnotic, mismatched vocal layers are interrupted by thudding, distorted bass guitar before the track combusts into an arsenal of horns. “I’m in a constant state of disappointment/I’m in a constant state of self-involvement,” Mason-Woods screams as drummer Alistair Stobbart’s coy, off-beat minimalism pays tribute to the British post-punk of the Thatcher era.
Additional horns imbue an experimental texture to the Flipper-indebted “The Wrong Way Home,” contorting the legendary San Francisco band’s style of art-damaged noise punk into an even knottier mess. The saxophone shrieks wildly as Dan Beesley’s guitar spits out discordant buzzsaw chords, climaxing with a free-for-all noise-off where Blacklisters’s usual brash instrumentation scrapes against Albert Ayler-esque brass eruptions.
The tart “No Not at All” closes out the EP with sharp guitar sweeps and Steve Hodson’s wriggly, menacing basslines. Cymbal crashes punctuate the sparse arrangement, the trebly guitars dropping in and out at semi-regular intervals. In typical noise-rock fashion, the lyrics are barely discernible, but by the end, the closing words (“It has come to my attention that I’m not fully formed, I’m not even halfway there, no, not at all”) display something close to self-awareness.
Across its 13 minutes, Leisure Centre skewers the shallow pleasures of yuppie aspirations and several toxic strands of masculinity with delicious fervor and, occasionally, some strong hooks. The EP doesn’t completely reinvent Blacklisters’s sound, but it does find the band once again offering up maniacal, darkly funny thrills and sees them oscillating between foul sludge and busted dance-punk in a way that few of their contemporaries can match.