Thursday's Geoff Rickly is no Lorenzo de'Medici -- but then again, the Blackout Pact is hardly Michelangelo. Still, Rickly's patronage of the Denver quintet (he produced and released its debut, Hello Sailor, on his own vanity label) has yielded a minor punk masterpiece. While rooted in Thursday's trademark epic melancholy, Hello packs tons more punch and grit; clearly inspired by the gruff realism of Small Brown Bike and the Lawrence Arms, singer Mike Herrera keeps his bilious screams melodic enough -- and his lyrics vague enough -- to hold a universal appeal. It's a near-perfect mix of poetry and noise and a seamless complement to the music itself, which melds deceptively complex riffs with anthem-level resonance and raw, open-throated sincerity. Art without artifice: It's not an easy picture to paint. But with Hello Sailor, the guys in the Blackout Pact have proved themselves maestros.
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