Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shadowhouse: "Hand in Hand"

One thing that was noticeable int 2014 is where most of the current crop of "post-punk" revivalist bands trying to bring back goth missed the boat. Sure a lot of it was enjoyable, some of it even memorable, but it lacked something very tangible that made 80's post-punk/death-rock/goth bands what they were. That x-factor is elegance and romanticism. Shadow House gets this. They have ample rock kick to  the opening track, but the x-factor is  best  showcased on "Haunted". The synths are a key part of this, but the guitar is really complimenting it, to create layers. These layers are what keep them from just being a dark punk band.They don't shy from the kinetic elements of punk that goth sprang from. But truth be told goth owes much more to David Bowie's theatrics than it does the Dead Boys.

The emotive web woven on "Lonely Psalm" re kindles the same passionate place that made "Disintegration" such a great album. It's the sort of feeling that makes me want to stop eating, grow my hair out and start smoking clove again.The songs are less sprawling than the pictures Robert Smith paints with his guitar, yet despite the some what lo-fi production the guitarist makes the most with what he is working with. All the right effects are in all the right places. The singer has heart to his baritone croon, he is not just doing an Ian Curtis impersonation. "Old Crime" could almost be spun into an 80's night set and go unnoticed.

Dynamically they work in varied shades of gray. The band's motto is "Play loud, dance slow" is the majority of the songs cater to that ethos. The pace gets brisker for "Start Again", ebbs and flows back and forth from the moodier verse to the more pulse pounding chorus. Lyrically  these poetic shout outs to  heartbreak are moaned out in vague metaphor. "Toys" carries a dark western feel to it, the guitar tone here hits it's creepy peak. While the band cites the Chamelons on their Facebook as their influence, the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen certainly seem more prevalent. Whatever the case aside from guitar tones, their is no glaring mimicry. In placing the emphasis on letting each song stand on it's own two feet, they are surprisingly original in a genre that owes so much of it's life to the past. They really go against the grain by really only giving a nod to Joy Division with albums darkest song 'We Don't Belong" that closes out the album. The singer also takes on a lower more dead pan inflection in his voice.

This album is by and large without flaw so I'll round it up to a ten and see how it stays with me. If you are tired of the same old same old hipster post-punk then these guys are worth your while, strangely being from Hipster centric Portland, they are very honest and devoid of irony in what they do. These are not some hard core kids playing around after listening to 'Flood Lands" they are well verse in what makes the genre work. They are on the second pressing of the single for "Haunted" the full length is being released on Gone Home Records. Mass Media Records. So seek them out, or this will be the best goth record of 2014 that you didn't get to hear.

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