With four full-lengths, a stack of EPs, several splits, a compilation and a bunch of globe-trotting tours under their belts, few would argue against Blacklisted’s reputation as one of hardcore’s hardest working and most prolific bands. It may be a little surprising, then, to learn that When People Grow, People Go is their first long-player in over half a decade; a relative eon when you consider the Philadelphia natives released their first three LPs in a four-year span. But, as is often the case, Blacklisted have returned — alongside trusted producer Will Yip — with their most varied and industrious release since 2009’s semi-classic Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God.
People Grow is not a full-blown paradigm-shift mind, but more of a natural progression; think the familiar barking Blacklisted ethos but with a greater willingness to experiment with pitch, timbre and tempo. Biting opener ‘Insularized’ is an early indicator, playing out as a frenetic battle between white-knuckle restraint and unleashed assault, as pummelling blast beats and snarling feedback snuff out fleeting glimpses of melody like fingers to wick. George Hirsch’s distinct shouts nearly buckle under the weight of ‘Turn In The Pike’s steep BPM as the angular riffs swarm in roaring cacophony like hornets displaced from their nest. Breathing room is only afforded by dissonance, a mere cleaning of the bayonet before another head-long charge.
Indeed, Blacklisted have never really struck as particularly calculating — their compositional decisions always seeming more instinctual than cerebral — but it’s this primal instinct to move forwards at all costs that propels People Grow into unsown terrain. ‘Foreign Observer’ is more in the mould of fellow artisans Norma Jean, whilst ‘Calendars’ and ‘Wooder Ice’ serve as adrenaline shots to an already propped-up nervous system. There’s nothing unusual about these two tracks of course — Blacklisted have made their name of sub-60 bursts of downtrodden punk — but there’s a creative confidence brimming in these tracks that I don’t remember on Heavier That Heaven. It’s almost reminiscent of Every Time I Die in part, only without the sardonic humour.
People Grow is an exceptionally well-ordered record too; each track offsets the previous in a way that facilitates maximum absorption of the world-weary rhetoric. At a little over 20 minutes it still breezes by, but there’s poise in deftly controlling a break-neck pace, particularly for a band not known for down-shifting. If anything, this manipulation amplifies Hirsch’s newly-honed cadence, and his familiar apathetic messages are given a grander pulpit. Whilst I refuse to trivialise his recent personal struggles with distant analysis or convenient conjecture, there’s a clearer, more understanding grit to his voice that drags the chaotic backing into a cohesive warning. And, whilst it may be another six years until Blacklisted’s next definitive move, there’s undoubted merit in taking your time before speaking.
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