Allister - Before the Blackout (Cover Artwork)


Before the Blackout (2005)


Allister's third release with Drive-Thru Records, Before the Blackout, is just as different as Last Stop Suburbia was from Dead Ends and Girlfriends. As vocalist Tim Rogner points out, "Our first record was really fast punk rock, and then the next record, we, like, tuned it down a little bit and made it straight up catchy pop-punk, and this one we tried to go a little bit further and incorporate some more things we don't normally do as far as writing, and I think it's just a natural progression."

The sound isn't perfect, but it seems like a step in the right direction. It's still the catchy kind of punk you'd come to expect from Allister, but with a new level of maturity. As a result, it starts to sound more like a rock album than just a punk album. They aren't simply going through a fast set of energetic chord progressions, but instead create entire songs, full of rock riffs and lyrics that are bound to stick in your head. I'll admit, there is a part of me that misses the energy of Dead Ends, and part of me that won't forget the all-too-catchy pop-punk sound of Last Stop, but there is another part of me that enjoys seeing the evolution of a band.

Their new sound is reminiscent of Lit's catchy rock style. There are also traces of Bowling for Soup, so it's obviously still laden with pop hooks, but it's definitely a new Allister.

One thing that bothers me a bit (and I'm not sure if this is more the label than the band) but they seem intent on pushing a "darker" image of Allister as part of their maturing process. The cover art and exploding light bulb on the back of the album look nice, but the shadowed portraits of the band inside the liner notes is a bit much. The themes aren't all happy-go-lucky, but they also won't give you any nightmares. They just seem to have an older perspective, and deal with some of the troubles one could come to expect throughout life.

The opening track, "Waiting," is a solid start for the album. Other key tracks include "Blackout" and "A Study in Economics." They also make sure no one forgets they are Chicago punks, with a song outlining "The Legend of Pegleg Sullivan," a man who was a possible suspect for starting the Chicago Fire.

Another positive here is that the album progresses well. It seems like a complete album, where one song flows into the other, creating a complete work, instead of a numbered set of disjointed singles.

The album is not groundbreaking. The first time I listened to it, I honestly thought it might turn into background music, but the more you listen, the more the album grows on you. It's something the band should feel good about, returning from a three-year release gap. With nothing left to say about Blackout, it really is an achievement for the band. It's a fresh new Allister for new and old fans alike.