Nov. 2 2011 04:47 PM

Country-rockers have chops and swagger, but not enough spark

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Blackout Party
Closed Mouth Don't Get Fed

(Mudslide Music)

Blackout Party guitarist Tim Lowman won big in the San Diego Music Awards this year with the help of Twist Shake Grind Break, a debut solo album he released under the name Low Volts. Armed with a slide guitar, a bass drum and his beguiling croon, he hammers out some of the loudest, heaviest, most badass blues-rock the city has heard all year.

So, it's no wonder I expected an ass-kicking set from Blackout Party on their second album, Closed Mouth Don't Get Fed. Unfortunately, the band falls short.

Closed Mouth certainly has its moments. The hard-charging guitars of “Spanish Gold” conjure early Queens of the Stone Age; the post-breakup honky-tonk of “Jenny Sue” has a Nashville barroom vibe; and “Casket Robbers” is as silly as it is spectacular, climaxing with an unexpected trumpet solo. If nothing else, it's the gargantuan blues-rock riffs of “Stronger Angel, Fiercer Devil” that make this album worthwhile.

Alas, Closed Mouth's front-end is loaded with instantly forgettable tracks. The song “13 Years” might save itself with a gnarly storyline about a convict who killed a guy with a samurai sword, but the title track hinges on a paint-by-numbers country-rock riff, and the sentimental “California Sky” veers dangerously close to Blues Traveler-style radio schlock.

Blackout Party, which won Best Americana at this year's SDMAs, is a versatile band they can even do a proper sea shanty (“A Sailor's Delight”). But Closed Mouth is in dire need of spark; too often, it sounds like they're just going through the motions. If they could muster half the energy Low Volts has, they'd be better for it.



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