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The sixth album by Madison, WI's Hum Machine is billed as a quasi-concept album about the travails of a hard-working indie band crisscrossing America in a series of clapped-out touring vans. When you think about it, the majority of indie rock albums can claim that as their subtext, so Songs Before the Blackout isn't particularly innovative in that regard. Nor in any others, unfortunately: the majority of Songs Before the Blackout is competent but utterly faceless indie rock by numbers. This makes the handful of truly great songs all the more frustrating: the synth-driven new wave cool of the dryly witty "Got Her Number" is fantastic, as is the Pavement-like quirk-folk of "Life in Leeds." However, the world didn't need another cover of Roky Erickson's "If You Have Ghosts," and too many of the remaining eight songs lack the melodic or lyrical heft to make them particularly memorable. Songs Before the Blackout is great for cherry-picking individual songs (the catchy "Other Side of the Other World," which features a Lou Reed-like sing-speak vocal, is also recommended alongside the two mentioned above), but as a whole, the album is rather disappointing.