The Old Haunts – Fuel on Fire

The Old Haunts
Fuel on Fire

In a large alley-way under a bridge, people cheered and whistled as circus street-folk danced on top of a loading dock behind a warehouse just outside of the city. There were piles of old boxes and broken wood pieces surrounding the performers as they playfully hopped around in their raggedy clothes, swinging fire ropes. Their faces were dirty and some of them didn’t have shoes, but they continued to entertain the crowd with their energetic band egging them on. After the show, I went home and put on Fuel on Fire and couldn’t help but think the Old Haunts’ music could’ve gone along very well with these somewhat surreal and almost dream-like events earlier in my evening.

Coming to us from Washington State’s capitol city of Olympia, The Old Haunts bring us their sophomore effort, which seeks to traverse many different styles yet manages to keep the sound pretty straightforward and simple throughout. From garage to country, the band’s influences are wide spread. And with the addition of Craig Extine’s unique vocals that resemble a hybrid of Charles Thompson and Jack White, the sound is distinctive. However, the album can feel a bit repetitious and lacking in energy at times.

What this groups seeks to create reminds me of an album I heard over a year ago from a group posing under the moniker Reverend Glasseye. Glasseye featured similar vocal qualities but with more of a dark, carnival quality. Where Glasseye broke out and had fun with his voice, weaving creepy stories and seeking to haunt the listener, The Old Haunts hold back a bit. Perhaps adding a unique instrument to a couple key songs on the album might not be a bad idea. With Extine’s unique vocals, he could pull off a little instrumental exploration. However, the band does add in some piano to a couple tracks. “Unveil a Key” rides on a foundation of saloon-style piano plinking, giving it a story-like quality that makes this one of my favorites and conjures up visions of a creepy self-playing piano.

The Old Haunts are not newbies to the music world, and it definitely shows. There are certainly no complaints as far as talent is concerned, but it’s because of their experience that I find myself asking for more. The musicians seem to be teetering on the edge of something that could be really great if only they could pack more of a punch into their studio album and push the boundaries of their sound while still holding onto the distinctive quality that works really well for them. When I hit play for the first time, “Civil Savage” immediately grabbed my attention, and I was hooked on the quirky sounds that blended Queens of the Stoneage with Modest Mouse. But where these bands break out and let loose, The Old Haunts aren’t ripping down the sides of the box. So after the first track, the rest of the album didn’t hold my attention as well, and I found myself losing interest.

Fuel on Fire sports a healthy amount of songs filled with many styles and influences that are a recipe for something interesting, entertaining, and musically solid. Now, with their distinctive style honed, The Old Haunts can break out and add in the raw energy that is missing from an album that could hold on to listeners and keep them in their haunted dream world from beginning to end.