Review Summary: Dear LostProphets & Funeral For A Friend… We invite you to support us on our upcoming tour.
2009 is a year in which we will hear new albums from many of post-hardcore’s heavyweights. North American bands Thrice, Thursday, Alexisonfire, Emery and Silverstein have all released well-received LPs, but could they be upstaged by six Welsh youngsters? Those who have heard The Blackout’s debut full-length release ‘We Are The Dynamite’ will think not, but it may pay to think again. And to the naysayers, The Blackout have a one-word message to pass on: ShutTheF*ckUppercut.
Bursting into your ears with an energetic in-your-face approach, the fantastically titled opener (‘ShutTheF*ckUppercut’, if you hadn’t realized) harks back to the raw heaviness of the band’s promising 2006 EP. Overall, ‘The Best In Town’ is indeed a heavier album than ‘We Are The Dynamite’ and is all the better for it. Look no further than the thick crunching riffs & menacing screams of ‘The Fire’ and closer ‘We’re Going To Hell… So Bring The Sunblock’ for other examples. Yet, it is the way in which The Blackout have now been able to combine that heaviness with their catchy melodies that is the undeniable secret to this album’s success.
If the opener was the wake-up call, then the following ‘Save Our Selves (The Warning)’ is what will actually get you out of bed. A body-mover of epic proportions, there are so many hooks tightly packed into its modest running time that it is practically impossible to ignore. Especially memorable for its magnificent chorus – where the masses won’t know whether to sing along to the anthemic “This is the blackout” line, or the simultaneous background “woh wohs” that just might be the best ever put to record – this should be the cut which breaks the band worldwide. Later, with the help of Josh Franceschi from You Me At Six, the quality is almost matched with penultimate track ‘This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things’.
Maybe the most pleasing aspect of ‘The Best In Town’ is the way in which The Blackout have progressed in almost every facet of their craft. It is clear that the band have analyzed their previous releases and learnt from their findings. For instance, the dual vocal dynamic (Gavin Butler’s clean vocals and Sean Smith’s screams) still exists when it should, but instead of forcing screams like on past occasions, Smith occasionally sings when the situation suits. Furthermore, there is an admirable maturation here that ranges from comparably stronger lyrics to more intricate musicianship. Hell, even the song titles hit the mark better, with the Nirvana mocking ‘I Love Myself and I Wanna Live’ extracting a chuckle from yours truly.
There is one instance however where The Blackout do not progress and instead err on the side of accessibility. That occurs on token ballad ‘Silent When We Speak’, which veers dangerously towards Hoobastank territory. Its ill-fitting radio-rock sound is especially disappointing when one considers the effectiveness of the moody closer from this album’s predecessor. It is not all that bad though and the missed step can be forgiven since there is hardly a filler track elsewhere. From the anthemic and silky smooth ‘Top Of The World’ & ‘Said And Done’ to the children-accompanied lead single ‘Children Of The Night’, ‘The Best In Town’ impresses for the entirety of its 34 minute duration.
For the sake of clarity, The Blackout are not looking to push the boundaries of post-hardcore a’la recent efforts from Thrice and Thursday. What they have done here on ‘The Best In Town’ is simply perform the genre better than the majority of their peers. Their brand of melodic and accessible post-hardcore is immensely enjoyable and crowd-pleasing. So much so that it places The Blackout near the top of the post-hardcore pack. The ball is now in LostProphet’s court for Welsh rock supremacy, because right now it is The Blackout that are indeed “The Best In Town”!
Recommended Tracks: Save Our Selves (The Warning), This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, ShutTheF*ckUppercut, Top Of The World & The Fire.