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Leisure Centre Alec Holt , November 24th, 2022 08:33

Leeds boys don't sound very happy

Over the last decade or so, Leeds-originating Blacklisters have come to cut the figure of a sort of noise rock Dean Moriarty. Presenting themselves at your doorstep with little forewarning and disappearing just as suddenly, the sight of their Commodore lurching into the driveway is a source of dismay for family and friends who know it means a couple of weeks off the grid. It appears that this is how they interact with one another, too; when I saw them blow out the Windmill’s spiderwebs in 2021, it was their first time all together in the eighteen months since the pandemic, bar a hasty practice that morning. 

Previous joyrides have covered diverse country. 2012’s self-titled debut LP was gnarled and vicious-swinging; 2015’s Adult fired from the hip with Jesus Lizard loucheness; and in 2020 Fantastic Man fit with more recent trends in noise rock, all psychotic yelping irony and frantic razor riffs. 

Leisure Centre, the first in what is promised to be a series of EPs, loses the hardcore-adjacent high tempos of some of their previous work. Instead, it finds intensity in diligent repetition, tightly wound refrains mimetic of everyday drudgery. 

On the titular opener, a clambering bruiser of a riff circles around crashing drums and lyrics parodying the leisure classes’ wilful secession from reality. “I wanna give my life to this pleasure centre” yells vocalist Billy Mason-Wood, sounding like a man for whom joy is but a distant memory. A soundtrack for the fathomless darkness inside the BrewDog Waterloo slide. 

Springy kicks and peppy hi hats lead off ‘Why Deny It?’ with an Outside the Dream Syndicate sort of fatalism. A hallucinatory mantra (“Why deny it, why deny it? / Ups and downs, ups and downs / Round and round”) articulates perverse enjoyment taken from a condition of ceaseless disappointment, like Waiting for Godot with the masochism turned up. Inevitably, breakdown follows: buzzing, almost kazoo-like saxophone screaming over high-fretted guitar scrambles.

‘The Wrong Way Home’ storms forward with a grimacing, Big Black-worthy rhythm section which sends a conflicting message to Mason-Wood’s dripping refrain of “just sit there”. The guitar/sax tag team returns to great effect, darting over freely from the right channel to terrorise the left.

Some of the best-toned stank face bass of 2022 lends brawn to the closer’s bristly 90s style riff in another song which opts for careering donuts over highway-hitting progression. Blacklisters have been more thrilling than this, for sure, but Leisure Centre nonetheless has a pleasing confluence of form and content: absurdity in despair, psychosis in repetition. We’ll see them again for some fresh caper before too long, no doubt.