CD Review: Before the Blackout: Pop punk rarely sounds so good

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2005 has been a monumental year for the Chicago pop punk scene, with Fall Out Boy, The Academy Is…, Plain White T’s, and Spitalfield at the head of a market filled with talented, hard-working bands.

Allister—one of the Windy City’s most enduring bands, with more than eight years in and around the suburbs—added its name to the list with the release of its third album, Before the Blackout.

Produced by relative newcomers Kyle Homme and Dennis Hill, Allister has pieced together 14 tracks that are clearly a focused effort to showcase their diverse influences—everything from Green Day to The Marvelous 3 and Superdrag. The result is a record that is enjoyable from beginning to end, and will undoubtedly appeal to anyone who is a sucker for fast-paced guitar and creatively catchy hooks.

Perhaps the greatest asset to Before the Blackout, however, is the cleverly honest lyricism. Hopelessness (“Potential Suicide”), optimism (“A Study In Economics”), and regret (“Waiting”) are all tackled using effective metaphor and simple storytelling. “The Legend of Pegleg Sullivan” even offers one possible solution to the mystery of how the Great Chicago Fire began.

While Allister’s fans won’t be surprised by the simplistic brilliance of the quartet’s latest release, it may be somewhat surprising to the young generation of punks who didn’t realize music can be emotive without screaming the lyrics. Of course, critics will always argue pop punk is nothing more than guys whining about girls. And while that may often be the case, it rarely sounds as good as Allister on Before the Blackout.

From the Nov. 2-8, 2005, issue

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