by David Sackllah
Without a doubt, BLXPLTN are one of Austin’s most interesting new bands. Their combination of punk, hardcore, hip-hop and industrial offer a varied experience that is always ambitious while never quite sounding like a band throwing everything but the kitchen sink together. Most times, their blending of ‘80s punk with more current funk-influenced alternative rock sounds works well, especially on spots like early album cut “Pressure” on Black Cop Down, the band’s debut.
Vocalist TaSzlin Muerte is adept at blending these styles, and at times the band can resemble At The Drive-In offshoot Sparta on tracks like the standout “Start Fires” (which is sung by co-vocalist and bassist Jonathan Horstmann). The band’s use of electronic drums and keys (tracked by the late Ikey Owens) throughout help make an interesting combination that is edgier than most of what is played on alt-rock radio but also accessible enough to be a crossover act.
While the band has a great deal of ambition and as much promise, their first album may be better viewed as a showcase of what they’re capable of rather than a succinct mission statement that encapsulates their electrifying live shows. BLXPLTN’s accessibility is mostly a benefit until they stray a bit too close to the “whoa-ohs” and blandness of bands like Imagine Dragons on mid-album cut “Betta Run.” BLXPLTN shine more on industrial heavy songs like single “Stop and Frisk”, led primarily by the inclusion of screaming vocals by guitarist Khattie Q. Her addition of vocals to the record provides a beneficial double threat approach that probably would have worked stronger earlier in the album, from a sequencing standpoint. The heavy electronics on the song serve as a possible answer to what Nine Inch Nails would sound like fronted by a hardcore singer, and is a better look for the band than when they try for the more traditional rock songs. Tracks like “Blah” are bratty and fun, and utilize Khattie’s screaming in a way that take a slightly typical melody and make it something abrasive. In all, BLXPLTN sound better as an electronic-influenced punk band than as a punk-influenced alternative rock band, and that mostly shows on the back half of the album. They have the energy down, but somewhere along in the polishing and fine-tuning of the record, some of the band’s spark seems to have gotten tarnished.
Black Cop Down is an intriguing debut from a band with potential that stands out in the Austin scene, but as an album it’s fairly scattered, with as many good songs as middling ones. As a young band, it’s forgivable, and hopefully a stepping-stone on the path to something better than an example of what to expect from them in the future. Black Cop Down shows multiple directions for BLXPLTN to grow into, some more suited to their skill-sets than others, and it will be worthwhile to see where that leads, even if their debut isn’t as compelling as one would hope.
David Sackllah is a music writer who has contributed to The Daily Texan and Brainburner, and has served stints at KVRX and Do512. He can be found on Twitter @dsackllah