Blacklisted is the Brand New of hardcore.
What? Too outlandish?
- Evolving their sound so drastically over the years it barely resembles what they were from the start--for the better--or the genre they may have been previously relegated to? Check.
- Evading common industry norms like doing interviews, as well as in Blacklisted's case, releasing a record with little-to-no prior notice? Check.
- Playing big shows with legendary bands like it was nothing? Check.
- Utilizing disparate influences like Nirvana and Neutral Milk Hotel? Check.
The more attentive Blacklisted fans knew the band was recording a new album, yet when No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me was suddenly released on November 30, it was still kind of a shock. Fans were forced to order the record cold with no preview save for some live performances of the new songs; granted, that's how it used to be, but in the internet age, one imagines it could have been uncomfortably anachronistic for them.
The album itself might throw one for another loop. No One Deserves is a rougher, grittier third full-length, but musically traverses slightly more experimental and noise/grunge-influenced territory than the band have been prone to play. The band's prior LP, last year's Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God tried out those structures but often found the band sticking to lightning-fast hardcore speeds before skidding to welcoming halts. Nothing on this album ever accelerates, but instead locks itself into a mid-paced, sometimes slower motive with a heavy influence from Nirvana's Bleach, from the intentionally raw, first-take-style performances to guitar riffs and tones, as well as frontman George Hirsch's gravelly, indignant shouts.
Burly, rattling opener "Our Apartment Is Always Empty" goes nearly five minutes long and is the record's longest track by about 50 seconds. It also sets the depressing tone for the album, further finding Hirsch--as in the past--self-critical, self-destructive and a little loathing ("Remember when you brought home that picture of your dad, hung it over the wall as a reminder of what it is to be a man? Well, I was lying when I said I didn't know where it went. I tore it up laughing and I'd do it again."). Much of the track's length is attributed to a point midway through when guest violinist Josh Agran bows a dramatic layer to the song's ebb and flow that, if anything, causes the song to resemble a heavier take on the early Murder by Death stuff before Hirsch comes back in to emphasize the song's points once more.
The Bleach nods come especially during the album's shorter cuts like "Everything in My Life Is for Sale," which lays on a thick, tambourine-assisted groove and post-chorus riff that'll get any fan of good dynamics completely pumped for a minute moment, and "Palisade," which most resembles the band's prior material.
Otherwise, a burbling bass thumps throughout the title track in a method similar to fan favorite "Canonized," while the NMH touches come with the dissonant atmosphere and punctual trumpet playing on the second of three interludes, "G.E.H.," and a stressed, pensive buildup for "I'm Trying to Disappear." "The P.I.G. (The Problem Is G.)" is one of the album's most ambitious takes, an acoustic (!) breather with an extra layer of something or other (more violin? Hard to tell) to keep the sound full. "I Am Extraordinary" features friend Melissa Farley adding gender contrast to another take of Hirsch drawing out his words in a slow drawl, a subtly dynamic finish to the album more or less, since it's followed by "S.M.F.", an unwinding, minute-and-a-half collage of various instruments playing bare rhythmic lines (piano, tape machine, tambourine, etc.).
No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me is weird, but not quite as much as anyone would perhaps like it made out to be, just like the repeated efforts from the procedural comparison made up high here. By and large what Blacklisted does here is a success, and the arguments it should stir about the boundaries of hardcore alone shows it might set a precedent far larger than itself. And whatever it is, it's one of the year's late entries for highlight lists.