South Wales post-hardcore sextet delivers a mixed third LP, not without soaring highs.
Alistair Lawrence 2011-04-04
The problem of giving the impression that you’re perpetually looking for a good time is that, when it’s time to get serious, people can have a hard time taking you seriously. Described in the nicest possible way by one critic as "the musical equivalent of the Bash Street Kids", The Blackout have been punching in and out in the middleweight division of British rock music for a few years now. Hope is their third studio album and touted as their step up. In truth, it comes on in leaps and bounds as much as it trips and stumbles along the way.
Having sprung from the same south Wales scene as Lostprophets and Funeral for a Friend, they’ve clearly been inspired by the crossover appeal of the former without abandoning the hardcore kid spirit that still pulses through much of the latter’s material. On album opener Ambition Is Critical, this approach results in an uneasy mish-mash of sweary posturing over a saccharine score. Between them, the colours-to-the-mast anthem Save Our Selves (The Warning) and the rambunctious ShutTheF***Uppercut from 2009’s The Best in Town mixed aggression with accessibility far better.
They’re clearly trying to make music that soars as much as it is uplifting, but too much of it is too familiar, too often. Never By Your Side loses its spark and bite when it goes for broke with a chorus that never quite ignites, while the title-track leaves them stranded in the middle of the road. Partly, they’re hamstrung by the production: everything sounds compressed, especially the gang vocals, and this unintentionally creates the impression of a hard sell.
It means that the album’s high points come when they career off the deep end. No More Waiting contains a blistering homage to Rage Against the Machine’s Wake Up between pacing itself nicely over a cool, slinking riff. Similarly, The Devil Inside is a fine slice of post-hardcore, alternating between gnashing its teeth and crooning cruel intentions. Too much of the rest languishes, in comparison. Here’s hoping they indulge themselves more next time around.