Finding an album that provides you with considerable, seemingly unending pleasure like few have ever done before is like finding money, and who doesn’t like finding money? Now, it would be foolish to state that A Lesson In Repression is the finest collection of tracks ever produced; that would be unadulterated insanity, but let me assure you, this second album from Scottish post-punk noisemakers Black International comes pretty damn close and to think that this record almost eluded me. That would be insanity.
There isn’t one bad track here and within its milieu, A Lesson In Repression ticks every conceivable box of how a good, nay, excellent record should operate. Beginning with ‘Shining Sword’, a densely nightmarish, echoing fuzz trip from the off that rides on discordant, high-energy spectrums and ending on ‘The Skeleton Of A Murdered Idea’, a light, well-considered acoustic progression that paints a startlingly different picture than that of the rest of the record (but fits perfectly), A Lesson In Repression could teach a lot of other bands a thing or two about music-making.
‘Animal Without Backbone’ and the furious pace it sets is pulled off with such conviction that you’d be mistaken for thinking Thurston Moore was behind the mixing desk, aggressively demanding that the Midlothian outfit crank up the venom. That’s something inherently obvious throughout the album too – the production values point towards grunge, shoegaze and the American North-West, but razors any possible influences with the self-deprecating fury only a Scottish band can muster. Remember when Idlewild were ferocious from time to time? Or when Biffy Clyro blew people’s minds and didn’t give a fuck? Black International do, but they want you to experience it rather than talk about it.
This is a duo, by the way. Two guys making noise that could rival a five or six-piece and said noise is incredibly potent and dangerously addictive – ‘A Constellation’ merits infinite repeats and is so feverishly explosive, it’s imponderable that there are potentially more tracks of the same calibre that didn’t make the cut. Its dark, reflective guitars seem to drive Stewart Allan to the brink as he melodically shout-sings to “take his medicine again.” Riveting from start to finish, ‘Silence’ provokes the inner animal and builds and drops and builds once more, climaxing into bursting shards of overdrive-soaked guitars and echoing gasps for air while ‘Dewdrops’, one of the album’s quieter moments (there aren’t many) extends its mandolin like a nail-bat to the hand of an already battered casualty of the mesmerising sonic violence found at every other point on the record. ‘In The Sun’ or ‘Primitive Method’ re-evaluate what indie should sound like but do so with an unnerving quality that is positively moreish and deliriously captivating.
It’s always a risk to create an album that’s designed to consistently and unapologetically rattle a listener, but it rattles so well that smiling menacingly at strangers on the bus while playing A Lesson In Repression could be considered a forgivable occurrence when you admit to who you’re listening to and offer a headphone as if it were mystical, health-giving smack-in-the-gob. Black International are a powerful, intelligent new species of band that we’ll likely be bowing down to for a long time once they take over the planet, and that’s absolutely fine with me.