New Release: Old Souls
Release Date: 1/21/14
Record Label: BMG/Chrysalis
Sounds Like: Airborne Toxic Event (NMT); Library Voices (NMT); The Postelles (NMT)
Location: Hunstanton, U.K.
For most of my reviews, I use this space to explain some overarching theme to describe my reaction to given reviewee's latest release or connect them to a larger vein of related acts. Unfortunately, the early weeks of 2014 haven't produced much compelling new material – although plenty is on the horizon in early February – so Deaf Havana essentially makes the cut here as the group whose new record I felt inspired enough to spend some effort reviewing (Bastille's Bad Blood deluxe edition nearly emerged solely on the strength of "Pompeii" – which you've likely heard on your preferred pop culture medium, but there's not enough there to warrant my stamp of approval).
So, what makes Deaf Havana worthy of my time, then? Well, they have some pretty catchy material on their first full-length album released in earnest in the United States, a mix of heartland rock and power pop-rock. They also smartly jettisoned half of their previous scream-metal identity with the departure of Ryan Mellor in 2010, allowing the sextet to play to the unit's inherent strengths.
Yet, at the same time, some of the material is a little thin in the message department. Occasionally, it seems like their instincts drive them towards Def Leppard when they should be channeling Bruce Springsteen and The Who, while at other times they come within striking distance of some examples of amorphous Christian rock, chock full of easy cliches and empty metaphor.
Nonetheless, enough of Old Souls is of sufficient quality that I feel comfortable in recommending that you give it a listen.
Come for: "Boston Square" (both the album's lead-off track and debut single, its easily the best in their entire catalog; The Who influences are transparent, but not recidivist)
Stay for: "Speeding Cars" (although frontman James Veck-Gilodi acknowledges the band's Springsteenian bent in the previous track, "22," its here where the true nods to The Boss are most recognizable through the number's steady, chugging pace)
You'll be surprised by: "Everybody's Dancing and I Want to Die" (easily the 11-track collection's hookiest offering, in the spirit of Library Voices' excellent Summer of Lust [NMT])
Solid efforts: "Lights" (a lighter Foo Fighters); "Subterranean Bullshit Blues" (big-sound classic rock with bluesy overtones); "22" (heartland rock with a touch of pop confection, a la The Postelles [NMT]; "Mildred" (power punk); "Kings Road Ghosts" (unquestionably the most British-sounding material on the record, with its football references)
Meh: "Night Drives" (this uber ballad is a tad cheesy); "Saved" (would have less trouble with this if it were actually a Def Leppard song; otherwise its a lot of shlock); "Caro Padre" (at first I thought I would like it, since starts slow and low, perfect for an album closer, but by the end the father's son stuff becomes overwrought; if you want the proper way to handle the father's son stuff, listen to fun.'s Some Nights [NMT] or Sleeping At Last's "Heirloom" [NMT])
Skip to next track: I could make it through every track, but those in the Meh section doesn't deserve much more than a listen or two