ALBUM REVIEW: Blackout Problems – DARK
“The best politician is a dead one” is one way of making a statement with the opening verse of your opening track.
“R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and L.O.V.E. for everybody” is perhaps an even bigger statement to end it.
In many ways, opener MURDERER is the clearest example of the Blackout Problems‘ message of wanting change in a weeping modern-day society, which has seen movie-like scenes of protesters storming the US Capitol just weeks ago. Their third record DARK sees them respond to the alarming headlines that have filled front pages across the world for the last couple years. They do this in a sound that combines the soothing melody of Holding Absence with the energetic intensity of Enter Shikari to mixed success.
The catchy hooks and dark pop beats are what gives this album partial success. However, the tracks are pretty hit and miss with the band often dancing along the tightrope of creating verses with simple but effective beats and flat-out lazy instrumentals. Songs such as BROTHER and LOVERS rely solely on the chorus to spark some interest in the track. Speaking of which, the latter has one of the cringiest choruses we’ve heard in a while, with lead singer Mario Radetzky blurting out “When I’m without you, I’m afraid of the dark” – imagine singing that with a straight face.
The lyrics can be really captivating on this record, but they can also be lethargic and unimaginative, as seen in the seemingly never-ending repetition of “house on fire” in HOUSEONFIRE. It really leaves a lot to be desired. Radetzky clearly bases the majority of his writing around creating catchy hooks rather than producing something meaningful for the majority of the album. LADY EARTH and GERMANY, GERMANY are examples of tracks that show the singer’s ability to write lyrics with deeper meanings. In these tracks, he touches on issues of climate change and the 2019 killing of a German politician by a far-right terrorist.
To the band’s credit, they do know how to create a catchy chorus or two. The passionate GERMANY, GERMANY, and the indie-pop chorus of DARK both have hooks that will ping around your head like a high stakes match of table tennis. The former is undoubtedly one of the songs of the album and whilst we’re on the topic of the best songs in the album – DRIVEBY sees the band at their very best. It’s unapologetic and features an awesome dirty guitar line that wouldn’t seem out of place at a 90s The Prodigy gig.
Album closer GHOSTS sees a nasty synth partnered with a rapid drum beat, to create an awesome atmosphere to finish off the record. DARK also shows how good the band’s production can be. From start to finish, the production is crisp, with every intricacy added having a constructive tint on the final outcome. For instance, the way SEVEN’s subtle synths mix perfectly with Radetzky’s mellow vocals, to generate an eerie feeling of nostalgia to wrap up the track is quite something.
Blackout Problems first album on Sony Music/Music For Nations either gets it right or very wrong, and sadly there is slightly more wrong than right. There is definitely more than enough potential here, but the band fail most of the time to execute this potential into something more engaging and unique. Although the occasional chorus does work, it just gets a bit too predictable. It would definitely be forgivable if you found yourself checking how many songs you have left on the record halfway through. The band do have some limited success, but too many of the the songs pass you by and leave you expecting more from an album that can only really be described as ‘meh’.
Standout Tracks: DRIVEBY, GHOST, DARK
For Fans Of: Twenty One Pilots, Holding Absence, Enter Shikari
Written by: Joe Loughran