Houseguest – High Strangeness

High Strangeness

This five piece out of Akron, Ohio brings 14 super-charged, energy-filled rock songs. Even though the category is more rock, the band’s energy borders on something closer to punk or even ska. Sometimes I half expect some horns to kick in with an attempt at reviving the old scene. But wisely, they manage to steer clear and keep themselves planted on the rock side.

Upon my very first listen of the opener “Fashionable Living Room” I thought that these guys certainly hadn’t stumbled upon anything that hasn’t been done before, but the double-tracked vocals had a good sound. The upbeat drumming and catchy guitar was practically a hand held out to request a dance. This could be high energy lindy hop with full on retro clothing or just the every day average hipster shaking violently. No matter what, it would be difficult to keep seated. At the very end of the song, with the line “I would be screaming your name always” the vocals fall out of their typical sound and provide a slight hint of a sound that the guys never pick up on. Instead the vocals continue on the same path as the songs continue to flow through the speakers. Before I know it, I have no idea how many songs have passed and I’m bored.

The unfortunate part here is that these are not bad songs but the collection as a whole is too similar from track to track. The energy is nearly always high, the vocals have the same tone and ride along on the same beat and there is little to break up the monotony. However, if you were to just pick one song at random to listen to, it would sound quite good and catchy. But the key here is not to listen to more than one or two songs in one sitting or it will all bleed together.

But with every rule there is usually an exception. Just as I thought I couldn’t handle any more, “King of Crystal Skies” breathes fresh air into the stale setlist. It opens with finger-picked guitar and a beat unlike anything else on the album and light cymbal crashing. The beat picks up slightly and the drums charge ahead with electric guitar, again, unlike anything else on the album. While the double-tracked vocals aren’t that different from the rest of the album, the slower tempo fits the sound well and the blend of the vocals with the music makes for my immediate album favorite. I don’t know where this song came from but this proves that the guys have the knack for crafting something different than the same sound heard in the previous six tracks. And then the following song goes right back to the earlier tempo and sound that I am, at this point, beginning to seriously tire from. Where is my back button?

Another slight deviation comes in the album closer “Where My Body’s From”, which includes some piano and a more downtempo approach with the slightest hint of alt country infused in the music. The vocals seem to groove more with the music here and this sound really works for these guys. The album closes with an hour of jamming piano, drums and keyboard. This is probably the best way they could’ve closed the album and it almost even sounds like they matured as a collective as they progressed through the album. I almost forget how monotonous the earlier portion felt and this song almost redeems it. But I can’t help thinking, why didn’t the piano make more of an appearance earlier on?

This is hardly a bad album but with a bit more exploration and some slight sound deviation, these guys could definitely be onto something. If you pick a song at random on the album it sounds good on its own but as a collection, these songs begin to lose their grasp on the listeners attention. It is a solid debut but could use some help in further exploring the sound which will come as the band members themselves continue to grow together.