“Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.” Those are wise words to live by. Unless, of course, you are recording your debut album, in which case extremism (or schizophrenia) makes for a much better listen.
Singer-songwriter Britt Black is no stranger to the stage, having toured for years with her former band Live On Release and fellow Canadian rocker Bif Naked. Taking a cue from her mentor, Blacks debut album Blackout is a valiant effort at cracking the saturated pop-rock market. Unfortunately, amidst a pile of indistinguishable artists, she experiences a power outage before the lights have even been turned on.
The album kicks off with Baby Come On Back, a tepid rock track reminiscent of I Love Rock’N’Roll. Britney Spears‘ rendition, that is. Black also makes the ill-advised decision to cover a song best left alone. While her take on The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary does not rank amongst the worst covers ever (sorry Madonna), it sounds rushed and uninspired. Debut single Jet Black Heart gives the album a much needed boost. The drum driven track is catchy and radio-friendly. So far, so inoffensive.
However, the album starts to sound muddled and confused from here onwards. In Your Face advises you not to push her too far, but the hesitancy of Blacks voice, coupled with the all too obvious lyrics, renders the track an empty threat. The unconvincing attempt at portraying teenage angst continues in Speed of Light. And just when you want to give her brownie points for trying, Black pulls Stuck Here and Girl Of Your Dreams, two pop-rock ballads which sound like Hilary Duff hand-me-downs, out of her not-so-mixed bag.
Black claims to be “Sick and tired of being sick and tired of feeling sick and tired” in Sick & Tired, which is downright annoying and not as clever as she thinks. The remaining tracks are less grating, owing to the fact that they all sound the same. The ironic Next Big Thing closes an album which began plodding along after the first three tracks.
In all fairness, Blackout is not atrocious. The problem is that when it comes to music, the idiom “Everything in moderation” does not apply when you are trying to make a first impression. The album is not gut-wrenching and raw enough to appeal to misunderstood emo kids, and yet too rowdy for your average teenybopper.
Black appears to want the listener to think that she is howling drunkenly and singing calmly at the same time. It all seems to give the impression that the targeted demographic is the tweenage girl who loves to sneak out but doesn’t want to put out, and (apparently) those types are far and few between. To top it all off, Britt Black may be a fine guitarist, but she really doesn’t have the vocal chops to be a headliner. She is to Bif Naked what Vanessa Auf der Maur is to Courtney Love. Unfortunately, I don’t drink diet.