The Blackout - The Best in Town
Record Label: Epitaph
Release Date: June 23, 2009
Genre mixing has over the past few years become the way to define a band’s sound and help them stand out from their various over-crowded scenes. While this mish-mash technique has been extremely successful in producing albums that are refreshingly new while remaining solidly in familiar territory (the latest efforts from Closure in Moscow and FACT come to mind), it has also lead to a wealth of acts who, although they initially sound like they have something new to offer, are in fact simply recycling the successful formulas of their predecessors and peers. Welsh natives The Blackout unfortunately fall prey to the latter tendency, and their newest album The Best in Town is, for the most part, an uninspiring rehash of the many types of rock music one finds browsing Myspace and listening to the radio.
The album opens with the predictably harsh and heavy “Shut-the-F***-Uppercut,” an admittedly fun, rollicking track that would be a blast to play live, but ultimately comes off as a watered-down b-side to a Story of the Year record. Next comes one of the album’s singles, “Save Our Selves (The Warning),” one of the few semi-highlights to be found on here. Its anthemic “whoas” are undeniably catchy and accompany an inspiring chorus that once again would probably sound great live. From there though, the album takes a depressing downhill turn, as the rest of the songs on The Best in Town offer little beyond new variations on tired formulas. There’s bright pop-punk (“Top of the World”), driving radio rock (“The Fire”), blistering vengeful anthems in the vein of The Used (“Said and Done”), and cheesy ballads (“Silent (When We Speak)”), but not one track manages to stand out from the rest. It’s not that any specific song is particularly bad; The Blackout simply leave the listener looking for the other albums in their collection that do those respective genres better.
In the promotional information accompanying the album, as well as the video for “Save Our Selves,” the band emphasizes the presence of two lead vocalists as an important factor in distinguishing their sound. After hearing The Best in Town, this comment seems fairly meaningless. Both Sean Smith and Gavin Butler have relatively nondescript voices whose differences do little to further the songs’ creativity. The combination of aggressive and melodic singing is just as standard as the songs it accompanies, and is not helped by run-of-the-mill lyrics that either try to get your fist pumping or throw a middle finger in your face.
The Blackout are clearly energized and excited about their songs, and luckily the album is somewhat redeemed by the fact that none of the music comes off as noticeably fake or mechanical. That doesn’t however stop The Best in Town from playing out as a boring imitation of far better releases. While the band could possibly be applauded for covering a decent amount of stylistic ground on the album, you’d be better off browsing the discographies of the Recommended If You Like bands.
I'm excited about these guys. They seem like they have much more talent than The Used, who I'm slowly becoming bored with. I could easily see them doing a tour with Story of the Year and breaking out pretty big.