Letters From The Psych Ward

Blacklist Union

From the outside, “Letters from the Psych Ward” looks very plain, very middle of the road. Happy to admit that I was wrong.
February 12, 2024

Most people would describe the last five years as time served in a psych ward, particularly since 2020. “Letters from the Psych Ward,” the fifth and latest album from BLACKLIST UNION captures that essence across 13 tracks (including two bonus tracks). BLACKLIST UNION is the brainchild of vocalist Tony West. He started the project in 2006, and while there have been the usual lineup changes, Tony has consistently delivered year after year.    

I didn’t expect to like this album. From the outside it looks very plain, very middle of the road. Happy to admit that I was wrong. Here’s what I like:

First, Tony has an interesting background. I’m not going to recount it here, because I would probably get it all wrong, but here is a guy who has roots in NYC, who has done time in LA, and who gives nods and respects to some of Punk’s best. This album, in fact, is dedicated “to the late D.H. Peligro of the DEAD KENNEDYS, Todd Youth, and Wayne Swinny.  D.H. Peligro (DEAD KENNEDYS) and Zander Schloss (CIRCLE JERKS) both appear on the album’s bonus tracks.” Those tracks are “Gates of Steel” by DEVO and “Golden Years” by David Bowie.

Second, there’s some really good songwriting going on with this album. Although nothing approximates the carnage of Extreme Metal, there are plenty of hooks and even a few barbs. The lyrics mix it up with some thoughtful tracks touching on things like mortality as well some tried-and-true rock themes like love and lust. The compositions are interesting and varied enough—no Pagan choral chants or Black Metal tremolo—just well-produced, well executed rock ‘n’ roll.

Third, Tony West is a solid, clean vocalist. While he doesn’t employ soaring operatic or gravel-rasping guttural, he does play with several effects to add some inventive twists. I also like that he dedicates a song to his daughter—the AEROSMITH cover, “Mia”—and in interviews he talks about his daughter like a normal proud dad. And he isn’t afraid to admit his flaws. I mean, the guy openly talks about his therapy sessions. Guess I’m saying, Tony comes across as a real human being—who also happens to rock. Now, I know that doesn’t say anything about the music . . . only it kind of does.

Standout tracks include “Out on a Jones” for its high octane, adrenaline rush; “Devil with the Angel Face” for its crushing intro and a groovy Stoner edge; and “Velvet Girl” for its rocking blues vibe. The covers are a nice touch: “Mia,” of course, is very classy; “Gates of the Steel” is a solid tribute; and “Golden Years” . . . I always hated the original, but I found this version a little more tolerable.

With five full-length albums under their belt, BLACKLIST UNION has already demonstrated their staying power. Hell, they even withstood the plague. I’m not sure if “Letters From The Psych Ward” is their best, word on the street is that “Back to Momo” has that distinction, but db for db it’s more than worth the asking price.

 

7 / 10

Good

Songwritting

7

Musicianship

7

Memorability

7

Production

7
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"Letters From The Psych Ward" Track-listing:

1. Letters from the Psych Ward

2. Out on a Jones

3. The Whore of Babylon

4. Keys to the Kingdom

5. Dirty Halo

6. The Queen of Everything

7. Devil with the Angel Face

8. Goodbye Mr. Faded Glory

9. Velvet Girl

10. Dancing with the Angels

11. Mia (AEROSMITH cover)

12. Gates of Steel (DEVO cover - bonus track)

13. Golden Years (David Bowie cover - bonus track)

 

Blacklist Union Lineup:

Tony West – Vocals

Nathan West – Drums

Rafael Moreira – Guitar

Chris Johnson – Bass

 

Bonus Tracks
Tony West – Vocals
D.H. Peligro – Drums
Zander Schloss – Bass
Chris Johnson – Guitar

 

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