It’s no surprise the ’00s have been a hard decade to pin down musically. With the influx of indie rock coming to the forefront, a multitude of bands from all over the place have broken open the doors and flooded the world with weapons of debut albums. Much like the tips of pyramids, these coveted places are hard to reach by normal standards, let alone musically. However, the tide turns in the greater favor for Brooklyn, New York’s very own post-punk, dance rock quartet Blacklist. Arming themselves with ripped pages from the greats of U2, The Cult, and even a dash of The Killers, these New Yorkers put an East Coast spin on traditional dance rock. However, it comes out of the oven with just enough uniqueness to call it their own on the debut LP Midnight Of The Century.
Storming out of the gates with a ferocious intensity, drummer Glen Maryansky and guitarist/vocalist Josh Strawn rip into the opener “Still Changes”, while the rest of the band follows suit. With a cryptic and echo-driven lonely guitar, the band seems to send out a distress signal rather than a song. At times, Strawn’s eloquent and distressed vocals bring to mind the great Richard Butler from The Psychedelic Furs; lonely, despondent, yet right in your face for the taking. What quickly follow Strawn’s vocals are the impressive leadwork of guitarist James Minor. In mirrors reminiscent of U2’s The Edge and The Cult’s Billy Duffy, Minor’s guitar play riffage bounces back from intricate and moving, to euphoric and environmental. Minor’s guitar work no doubt plays a major role in this young quartet’s collected level of noise, but unlike his contemporaries, it’s much needed in these times and feels like a breath of fresh air.
The dance floor disciples continue the aggressive onslaught on the next couple of numbers such as “Flight Of The Demoiselles” and the infectious and sarcastic dedication to George Orwell, “Shock In The Hotel Falcon.” The band follows an intelligent formula of thumping bass courtesy of bassist Ryan Rayhill, Maryansky’s dependable drumming, epic guitar interplay, and Strawn’s vocals on top to bring it all home. In a weird way, it’s unjustly fair to compare these guys to the late and great Joy Division. Not because every indie band that comes out of the woodwork is compared to the legendary band, but because these guys are blazing quite an impressive path of glory. Sure, Ian Curtis is a once-in-a-lifetime type of voice and showman, and yes, his influence is apparent, but Blacklist avoid the bullet with the other sounds blended together in a superbly impressive debut record. Blacklist knows its influences and knows it’s a post-punk act. The scope of the music goes beyond titles for these New Yorkers and the record shows. Why not give Brandon Flowers a run for his money? You tell me.
Diving into darker territory with more disco-laden rockers Blacklist offers “Language Of The Living Dead”, the power ballad “Odessa”, and the dark-ride-out-of-hell inspired send up “Julie Speaks”. The latter comes complete with a rip-roaring chorus: “Just glorified runaways/all racing backward/with hands off the wheel/to give up control.” These guys know how to write damn good tunes. The band then takes a final bow with some slower paced tunes like “The Cunning Of History”, “When Worlds Collide” (no not the Powerman 5000 song), and the final curtain call, “The Believer”. For my money, these guys better stick together through thick and thin. It’s rare enough to impress even the most cynical critic/hipster/music lover, but these guys are onto something, and I wish them all the best.
It has been quite a while since a debut record contains, to quote Sum 41, “… all killer, no filler.” Blacklist has crafted a well-rounded, post-punk debut album that will satisfy the fans of the Manchester scene from the ’80s to the dance-hop 21st century zealots of today. Leave the pompadour haircut for the bathroom and grab a copy of Blacklist’s record. You won’t regret it.