Michael Monroe: Blackout States

The ‘Double M’ is back, and he’s still rock’n’roll crazy after all these years.

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Blackout States is another force to be reckoned with, another irresistible release for the irrepressible Monroe who continues to age superbly. At 53 he shows no signs of mellowing in style or attitude.

Continuing the hot streak that he began with the catch-up live album Another Night In The Sun five years ago, Finland’s finest frontman now extends the run to four with this follow-up to 2013’s Horns And Halos. On this, Monroe continues his habit of changing half his guitar pairing every studio album, with Rich Jones (ex-Black Halos/Amen) coming in alongside his regular guitarist Steve Conte, plus bassist Sami Yaffa and drummer Karl Rockfist. The transition is seamless.

Blackout States contains, admittedly, nothing radically different to its recent predecessors but then again, there’s no drop in quality either. There are no folk-rock diversions, no 18-minute piano ballads, no free-form jazz explorations. Monroe just delivers.

Against a background of high-adrenaline, just-for-kicks rock’n’roll, he writes fond reminiscences of his wild-eyed and legless days in Hanoi Rocks (as on the single Old King’s Road), balanced against regret at their passing (Dead Hearts On Denmark Street). He does a nice line in self-deprecation (‘I haven’t lost my mind just yet/Now what was it I was supposed to forget?’ in Good Old Bad Days), even as he proudly refuses to apologise for a lifestyle that would be more suited to a man half his age (Permanent Youth).

The band behind him are playing it like they live it too. The guitars of Conte and Jones slicing and dicing their way through riffs and solos while Yaffa and Rockfist (surely one of the best rhythm sections in rock’n’roll today) can drive a song at any tempo from steady to frantic to pinwheeling-off-a-cliff.

If you want superfast action, look no further than opener This Ain’t No Love Song, a 90-mile-an-hour Damned-alike thrash. You prefer raucous anthems? Then there’s the single Old King’s Road and Goin’ Down With The Ship. Need an amusingly dumb chorus? Try RLF (as in ‘We’re gonna fuck shit up and Rock Like Fuck’). Want a great chorus? Try The Bastard’s Bash. You love a great song title? Read that last line again…

For a change of pace, there’s the reflective Keep Your Eye On You, the title track or Under The Northern Lights. In short, there’s a bit of everything here. After three plays you’ll know every hook and after four you’ll be singing along. Not a bad song among them.

Neil Jeffries

Freelance contributor to Classic Rock and several of its offshoots since 2006. In the 1980s he began a 15-year spell working for Kerrang! intially as a cub reviewer and later as Geoff Barton’s deputy and then pouring precious metal into test tubes as editor of its Special Projects division. Has spent quality time with Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore – and also spent time in a maximum security prison alongside Love/Hate. Loves Rush, Aerosmith and beer. Will work for food.