‘Always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ would be an appropriate summation of The Blackout’s career since they formed back in 2003. The Welsh sextet from Merthyr Tydfil have supported Lostprophets, Paramore, Limb Bizkit, My Chemical Romance, Blink-182 and many more over the years, yet they seem no nearer to becoming legitimate headliners themselves. Then again, the band have never shown a great deal of ambition in their previous three releases, producing songs that are rather formulaic.
The latest effort from The Blackout is simply explained by its title, Start The Party, with the band pitching the album as the cure to all the negativity going around at the moment. “There’s a lot of bands out there at the moment that do deal with this depression and the shit state of the world, but that’s just not us,” said vocalist Gavin Butler. “We wanted to write about enjoying yourself and not worrying about things.” And that’s exactly what the six-piece do over eleven tracks of explosive, high-energy rock.
The driving title track kicks the album off as the band mean to go on, with a chunky riff, thumping beat and yelled vocals. The jumpy verse is fairly forgettable, with its only purpose to build towards the big, sing-a-long chorus, as Butler and the band sing: “Start the party/ call everybody/ rock the party/ let’s get it started.” It’s something the band repeat throughout the record, with rousing choruses the order of the day time and time again. In fact, the second track Radio is virtually a continuation of the opener, as another boisterous chorus muscles its way in.
One of the main problems with Start The Party is that it’s hard to work out what exactly the six members of The Blackout are doing most of the time. The album just sounds like the same guitar riffs recycled, with the distortion merging them all into one. Let Me Go sees Sean Smith and Butler exchange shouty vocals over thunderous guitars and a crunching bassline, before the song eventually reaches another full-throttle chorus. It’s not particularly dislikable, but it’s not very interesting, either. Occasionally, the formula does come up trumps, with the monstrous, combative, sing-a-long chorus of We Live On one of the few memorable moments from the album.
The second single from Start The Party, Running Scared, is another song that leaves a mark, with its infectious chorus and energetic verse demonstrating just how effective The Blackout can be when they get it right. However, the highlight of the album is anthemic ballad You, the one song on the album that doesn’t feel forced. While the lyrics are a bit cliche (“But it’s you, only you/ and nothings gonna change the way I feel/ about you”), it makes a pleasant change from track after track of mindless, guitar distortion and throaty vocals. It’s only a brief respite, though, with Free Yourself and Sleep When You’re Dead returning to the monotonous thrashing of guitars that dominate the rest of the album.
The Blackout set out to make a party album and a party album they have made, but in the end, Start The Party is just meaningless. The band have limited themselves by sticking to such a basic concept, something emphasised by their use of words like ‘laryiness’, ‘yobbish’ and ‘loud’ when describing the album. It’s squarely aimed at appeasing teenagers who want to get drunk and it will no doubt achieve such a purpose. However, for a band that should have loftier ambitions with three solid albums under their belt, Start The Party is extremely disappointing.