All Access Rating: A-
|Michael Monroe - Blackout States 2015|
Kickstarting Monroe's latest album with incendiary guitars and a healthy dose of punk attitude, the rip-roaring anthem makes no bones about Monroe's cynicism toward relationships. Declaring that "there ain't no first dates, there ain't no soul mates," the pride of Finland is fine with being a loner. It's a lifestyle choice he heartily endorses, and the absence of a soul-draining partner seems to agree with him, as the Spinefarm Records release Blackout States continues a run of strong, high-energy rock 'n' roll records from the former Hanoi Rocks frontman. Who needs love anyway if you could be – forgive the hyperbole – the last rock star on earth?
Cultivating a more melodic sound that's slightly looser than its predecessors, the trashy, irresistible power pop of Blackout States dials back on the big, in-your-face production of his last two swashbuckling records and lets the record's sparkling songwriting speak for itself. The result is a more consistent album, with less peaks and valleys, although Monroe and company have plenty of fire in the belly this time around. Infectious, tough and wistful, "Good Old Bad Days," "Goin' Down With the Ship" and a rumbling "Dead Hearts On Denmark Street" are fiery riots of tight hooks and sing-along choruses awash in nostalgia for wilder times and irresponsible behavior. While "The Bastard's Bash" is all swagger and ballsy bravado and "R.L.F" is fast, ramshackle punk on trucker speed, the self-empowering sentiments of "Keep Your Eye on You" benefit from reduced volume and swooning harmonies, while "Permanent Youth" and "Six Feet in the Ground" offer sweet ear candy with razor blades stuck in them.
With bassist and longtime collaborator Sami Yaffa and drummer Karl Rockfist driving this furious engine, and guitarists Steve Conte and newcomer Rich Jones (formerly of the Ginger Wildheart Band and the Black Halos) delivering hot-wired riffs and blistering leads, Monroe has the backing of a band that matches his youthful enthusiasm and rebellious personality. And while Blackout States mines the same old exhausted veins of glam-punk gold Monroe goes back to time and time again, he somehow still manages to find shiny nuggets of the stuff lodged in there.
– Peter Lindblad