NEW YORK — Music fans who miss the glory days of post-punk and “Ëœ80s alternative need look no further than “Midnight of the Century” the debut album from New York quartet Blacklist, which offers a quick fix.
Blast recently spoke with three-quarters of the band (minus guitarist James Minor) as they prepared for the July 28 release of their record.
The Blacklist seed was planted in 2004, when singer Josh Strawn and guitarist Ryan Rayhill, both New York transplants, met each other and shortly thereafter formed a band whose sound emulated the likes of Iron Maiden and Motorhead. The eventually addition of drummer Glenn Maryansky prompted their music to evolve to a “more melodic, atmospheric post-punk” aesthetic, according to Strawn.
Strawn’s soaring, Peter Murphy-esque vocals don’t seem to fit with his softspoken, contemplative offstage persona. A high-minded, politically passionate frontman who says that, if music were not an option, he’d be studying Farsi in pursuit of a journalism career in Iran, Strawn’s resume includes a past stint as a community organizer for ACORN. His list of lyrical inspirations includes figures like George Orwell and astronomer Carl Sagan.
The name Blacklist, originally proposed by Rayhill, is an apt reflection of this mindset.
“It was kind of serendipitous” said Strawn, pointing to the fact that he often draws on the memoirs of political dissidents to flesh out his songs (sample lyric: “We‚ come together‚ in the street like soldiers … we’re gonna burn their flags”). The album title itself is a throwback to Russian revolutionary Victor Serge, whose novel “Midnight In the Century” offered a detailed account of life in the Gulag.
Sonically, “Midnight of the Century” is crafted from accessible metal that occasionally strays into pop territory and, at times, even borders on danceable. From the moment it gets underway with the thumping opener “Still Changes” “Midnight” immediately calls to mind “Ëœ80s alternative powerhouses like Joy Division, The Cult and The Church. But the band members identify more obscure bands like The Sound, The Lucy Show and Asylum Party “" “a lot of stuff that flew under the radar in the “Ëœ80s that should have made it big” according to Maryansky “" as being more influential.
The fact that Blacklist’s sound doesn’t fit easily into one single category (“A lot of people like to put us in the goth hole” Rayhill laments), but instead blurs the divisions between New Wave, metal, pop and glam rock, sits well with the members.
“There’s always been an effort to walk interesting lines between what’s a macho sound and what’s a feminine, makeup-wearing sound” Strawn said. “We’re into all of it. “¦ it’s more about a sonic space than it is about trying to fit into it.”