The Blacks
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The Blacks


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"The Blacks at Rickshaw :: Live Review"

The Blacks' live presentation is like a shot in the arm, curing relentless boredom at local rock shows with a primal fever that’s easy to catch, even if you're at the back bar, like I was. Spend a few songs with the Blacks and you’ll be reeled into their decidedly dark, driving rock rhythm that recalls your earliest infatuation with rock music, inebriation… definitely sex… add a few decades worth of experience with all three by the three band members and you’ve got intelligent, brash, garage rock all fronted by a talented female that holds it down up front with lead vocals and lead guitar. Energized by tasteful, charismatic drumming (for proof of the energy, the tambourine man is such a spectacle I think I even saw him throw up a little onstage) and at once urgent and catchy (these songs will stick in your head) a rare thing happened at the front of the venue, you know, by the stage. Dancing! At a rock show! Not boring! Think lusty and aggravated rock music, then go see them for yourself.

--Jocelyn Hoppa
- Crawdaddy Magazine

"PaperMag Band to Watch: The Blacks"

'...Quite the mesmerizing trio -- think Mazzy Star meets the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Lead singer Luisa Black hardly moves while playing the guitar, but lays a deadpan, sexy stare on the audience that could brings armies to its knees. Then there's her beau, JDK Blacker, who doesn't play anything except the tambourine every once in a while but who moves around like a rocket and sings along as though his life depended on it. And finally, there's Gavin Black, and boy does he know how to play the drums. All together it's a great trio that you can expect big things from. Catch them September 20th at the Mercury Lounge.'

- PaperMag

"The Blacks on NPR"

With the garage rock revival, the gritty, unrefined noise-pop sounds of the '80s from bands such as the Pixies and the Jesus and Mary Chain have bubbled back to the surface. The Blacks' ragged, gutsy sound fits right in, capitalizing on the perennial market for raw rock. The three-piece band's debut LP, Nom de Guerre, offers a minimalist approach fueled by equal doses of energy and verve.

Dialing in under 29-minutes over nine tracks, the Blacks keep things tight and precise on the album. Without a single song exceeding four-minutes, the trio sticks to short, jagged, punkish tunes built on one guitar, drums and a tambourine. "The whole principle of The Blacks is to see how much you can do sonically with very little instrumentation," says guitarist and lead singer Luisa Black.

The record opens with "Raincoat," a quick, jumpy track defined by its punctuating guitar jabs and Luisa's squeals and grunts. The band's raw, unpolished sound lends it an undeniable immediacy. Between the biting guitars, punk-rock stylings and Luisa's attention-grabbing squall, the Blacks' comparisons to New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Karen O are all but inevitable.

With two members living in San Francisco and one in New York, the band splits time playing shows on both coasts. The band recently debuted a concept it calls "The Tambourine Experiment," in which 100 tambourines are handed out to the audience to play the full set with the band. The group has just finished recording a new EP, which it hopes will be released on a new label in the fall. - NPR All Songs Considered June 2008

"No Big Hair :: CokeMachineGlow"

'Perhaps the real genius of the Blacks’ debut record is that it conveys subtle and sophisticated narratives in musical language that is utterly primal; this record is lusty, powerful, driven, and, at times, violent'

Full review and interview: - CokeMachineGlow

"The Blacks at BOTH :: Live Review"

The funny thing about The Blacks that I first noticed, upon witnessing their mind-blowing performance at the Bottom of the Hill on Saturday (Aug. 9th), is that if there were ever a lead singer who reminded me of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this was it. But take Louisa Black and place her next to Karen herself and who would look like the imitation? Certainly not Miss Black. After enduring the gloomy basement-art-rock stylings of opener The New Centuries, aptly named after a local strip club (or that’s the rumour anyway) – The Blacks entered the stage and began shouting at me unapologetically. But I didn’t mind. It was like somebody kicking art up my ass – art that I deserved. I felt that I had been waiting for this moment for a very long time. Singer Louisa Black looked just like all of the sexy, assertive, and intelligent bitches I’ve ever met in my life, except she played guitar way better.
Next to her stood the most seemingly useless band member, JDK Blacker - cleary her slave – dressed in a contrasting white suit, doing nothing but banging a tambourine around but nonetheless contributing to the overall artistic appeal and stage presence of the performers that evening. I was captivated. Normally I stick to music that I am somewhat familiar with. It just seems to grow on me. I did not know nor could I really understand much of what Louisa Black was singing. My attention span drifted in and out the way it always does, but somehow I managed to absorb the experience and feel completely satisfied. Even despite three technical difficulties, including a breaking snare, The Blacks never lost their pace or focus.
Now a word of defense. You should not, if you are a Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan, bypass this band, writing them off as yet another imitation. At this point I am certain that if you were to place Louisa Black and Karen O in a dueling arena, Louisa would come out victorious. In a word, Louisa Black is more Karen O than Karen O herself. Mix that concentrated essence of Karen with a dose of sixties mod rock and a dash of 20’s liberation, and you have The Blacks – the most down-to-earth, in your face art rock this side of the Bay. -

"Performer: Show of the Month : The Blacks"

'...In sharp contrast to The Frail’s guitar-free set, The Blacks were all about revving it up. Along with punk-style drums, ferocious tambourine, and distorted vocals, this three-piece put on a fierce show and held Bottom of the Hill completely entranced with their tenacious garage sound. The Blacks’ leading lady, Luisa Black, furrowed her brow and growled through her teeth and her guitar, the reverb on her mic lending a Rid of Me-era PJ Harvey effect to her vocal delivery. All the while, a crazed JDK Blacker shook and slapped his tambourine in true Pentecostal spirit. The Blacks’ stage presence was undeniable — in fact, they owned the stage. A certain Black Christopher joined the band on sax for the group’s final number, a zealous cover of Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never,” adding depth to the salacious song and intrigue to the band’s standard framework.' - Performer Mag: September 2007

"Illumination Rounds: Review"

CMG staffer Craig Eley did a fine job of introducing the Blacks' new album, Nom de Guerre, so if you want to get all intellectual and stuffy about the heart and soul of this band then peruse his review when you're done with this one. For my part, I'll just stick to the basic facts: while 2007's Nom de Guerre is a solid full-length debut, Illumination Rounds holds the slightly more stunning distinction of being one of last year's best EPs. By all accounts and as far as I know, it does the two things EPs are supposed to do, like get you excited for the shape of things to come and stand on its own as a short yet powerful statement. Indeed, this three-song collection shares one track ("The Flame") with the LP but its two other tracks ("Illumination Rounds" and "New Man") rival anything else in the newest batch, save for the excellent "The Split."

The Blacks are minimalist rock n' roll, punctures of noise full of late-'80s and early '90s come-ons by way of the Pixies and L7. Head-honcho Luisa Black shreds the guitars and vocals while her hubby, J D K Blacker, exacts an atomic focus on hand claps, tambourine, backing vox, and dancing. Guest Black, Charlie Knote, steps in on drums. The thing with minimalist bands is that they get us thinking how they might sound with a bassist here or a keyboardist there. (Don't tell me you've never wondered about the potential awesomeness of an augmented White Stripes lineup with a garage-soul bassist and a dirty-ass Rhodes player that aren't in the Raconteurs. Cripes, the allusions are too easy.) Fortunately, Illumination Rounds' spare arrangements are far from asthmatic, never feeling like forced genre statements and only clocking in at nine fucking minutes, great to throw on your playlist when your friends call to say they'll be over in ten minutes to pick you up en route to the bars. Because this record is as fun and time obliterating as downing a line of rapid-fire shots.

"There's a light in the corner where a man used to stand / He offered me salvation -- I gave it back." So opens the lead track, "The Flame," a slow rocker with moping distorted guitars, the closest this band flirts to balladry. It's an appropriate starting point; Ms. Black's first words speak like an elegy to her past life, a final goodbye to everything she walked away from -- in this case, her role as lead guitarist in the underappreciated late-'90s group Glitter Mini 9 -- before donning the stark wares of her new band. She moans with the sarcasm of someone who went through all of the shit of whatever decade still haunts her.

Goodbyes out of the way, the band kicks more familiar gears on "Illumination Rounds." With a guitar riff resembling the Stray Cats on meth, vocals channeling Karen O affectations, and handclaps so deep they come off like Gestapo boot stomps, who the hell doesn't want to dance? Call it muddy production but I prefer to just call it some dark-ass shit, especially with the Black's lyrical discourse positioning the band as a passionate but pricey one-off fuck: "I took it like a lover / I took it like a man / Five hundred by the hour / High school style in the back of the van / Oh baby there's an earthquake in the sand." It's just so grimy and too damn good to pass up.

"New Man," another pairing of pummeling guitar chops and street-wise sassy vox, hits its stride with Black's deadpan verse delivery -- "I've got a new man / He's worth a million in prizes" -- and a chorus chord-riff built on a fist-pumping nod to the Pixies' "Gigantic." And it seems like there should be more but that's it, this EP is over. Three people x Three songs = Nine minutes. A shotgun shell of crapnel spread all over yer face. Now leave: your friends are waiting outside with the tremors.

--Andre Perry - CokeMachineGlow

"Pop Beat: SF Chronicle: A Blistering Set"

By the time you hit 35, firsts of any kind are harder to come by. First love, first kiss, first overseas trip, first hangover, first music-induced dance-floor orgasm - chances are, you've checked all these off of the running to-do list in your head by your early 20s. So, had I not seen with my own eyes what I'm about to describe to you, I never would have believed it.
On Aug. 4, local garage-rock trio the Blacks played a blistering set at the gay indie-rock disco Trans Am and incited San Francisco's first half-gay/half-straight slam pit. I kid you not. Like a holy roller on a mission to save the souls of his sweaty congregation from boredom, Blacks' white-suited co-front man JDK Blacker preached the evils of monotony from his imaginary pulpit. One hand to the sky, the other forcefully shaking a tambourine to keep dull spirits at bay, he convulsed with the spastic energy of revered rock proselytizers such as Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger as he ordered the crowd to lose control. And it did. Amen. - SF Chronicle Datebook

"New York City Tonight :: Futuresounds"

Frontwoman Luisa Black has that nasty grit that drags me in, kind of like Karen O on that first EP, or PJ HARVEY. They just released an excellent EP called Nom de Guerre on Tricycle Records and I can't stop listening to 'Elegant Walk.' - FutureSounds

"'Deliciously distressed'"

'This new SF trio whip out some down'n'dirty trash tunes with the rock'n'roll basics -- vocals, guitar, drums and tambourine. The vocals are delivered in a deliciously distressed, smeared sneer. Just imagine a female fronted piss'n'vinegar descendant of Jesus And Mary Chain, and you'll have some idea of where The Blacks are coming from. We think they would fit great at a gig alongside fellow Bay Area hotties The Husbands and Von Iva.' - Aquarius Records


Tiger Songs, EP, Tricycle Records (June 2009)
Gravitas/Ammunition single, RCRD LBL (Sept. 2008)
Back to Black/Never Say Never 7-inch, Tricycle Records (2008)
Nom de Guerre, LP, Tricycle Records (2007)
Illumination Rounds, EP, DIYORELSE (2006)



Transcontinental punks The Blacks are a dark and dancy San Francisco/New York three-piece known for their short, blistering stage shows and laser-beam intensity. With a stripped down instrumentation featuring guitar (Luisa Black), drums (Gavin Black) and wild-eyed tambourine player JDK Blacker, The Blacks serve up a hot, electric, garage noir sound that mixes the rawness of The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Stooges with the vocal elegance of Romeo Void. Their debut full-length "Nom de Guerre" (2007) was released on Tricycle Records. A new single, Gravitas, from the EP "Tiger Songs" was released on RCRD LBL in September 2008. "Tiger Songs" was released on Tricycle Records in June 2009.