Album Review: Michael Monroe – “Blackout States”
It’s not been a bad few years for ol’ Mr Monroe. 2011’s Sensory Overdrive album was a fine return to form (aided in no small part by the song writing talents of a certain Ginger Wildheart) and saw the start of something of a purple patch in his career, which continued with 2013’s Horns and Halos and the addition of Backyard Babies guitarist Dregen to the band, following Ginger’s departure. This time around, punk rock jack of all trades Rich Jones (The Black Halos, The Loyalties) has taken on six string duties, joining the formidable line up of Monroe, Sami Yaffa (Hanoi Rocks), Steve Conte (New York Dolls) and Karl Rockfist (The Chelsea Smiles). The resulting album, I’m happy to report, is another belter.
Opening track This Ain’t No Love Song kicks things off in suitably belligerent fashion and sets the tone for the majority of the songs that follow; high energy punk rock loaded with attitude, humour and football terrace choruses. The musicianship is incredible throughout, if it’s in your face solos and guitar histrionics that float your boat, you can pretty much take your pick from the thirteen tracks on offer here, with the defiant sing-along of Goin’ Down With The Ship and the stunning title track being particularly worthy of mention.
Blackout States is at its best when it takes things up a notch. The brilliantly titled The Bastard’s Bash is all sleazy riffs and nastiness, Dead Hearts on Denmark Street positively struts along on a quirky stop-start riff, while the gloriously unsubtle R.L.F (Rock Like Fuck, naturally) does exactly what it says on the tin.
Lyrically too, Blackout States chooses not to stray too far from themes that will be close to the hearts of any old school rocker. On Permanent Youth, Monroe sings “growing older gracefully, no it ain’t the thing for me”, and rarely has a truer word been spoken. These are tales of music, youth, friendship and times gone by. Tracks like first single Old King’s Road and Good Old Bad Days resonate with a wonderfully romantic sense of nostalgia. If Blackout States proves one thing, it’s that Monroe understands his audience and knows how to give them exactly what they want.
Even though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its most recent predecessors, this is still the kind of loose, authentic rock ‘n’ roll record that a band like Aerosmith would trade their silk scarves to be able to deliver these days, performed by an exceptional group of musicians and delivered with charm and style. Still not fakin’ it.