Albums Dead On Arrival- Hands Like Houses; “Anon”

If a band was to give as little effort as possible, go into a recording studio and write the simplest pop rock songs ever, it would result in this album, a couple beats short of a Maroon 5 album.

Albums Dead On Arrival- Hands Like Houses; “Anon”

Antonio Llanos, Staff Writer

On Oct. 12, 2018, Australian, post-hardcore quintet, Hands Like Houses released their Fourth album, “Anon.” The album was a long awaited, long stalled and poorly executed effort of inclusion and experimentation. Acting as the musical and stylistic departure for their three prior albums on their former record label, Rise Records, “Anon” sacrifices the musical and lyrical components that set the band apart from a modern Post-Hardcore movement invested in screaming vocals and dedicated to pairing chaos and melody. The album is not a complete disaster, simply because the hallmarks of their trademark niche-sound echo loudly in the album.

Prior to the album release, Hands Like Houses released a celebratory track to mark their signing to alternative music label, Hopeless records, known for housing acts like All Time Low, Neck Deep, PVRIS and Australian metalcore act Point North. Drift was a track that had an immense amount of promise and highlighted a major developmental shift not only in lyrical style but development of sound. The song was hard, but not too hard, finally incorporating some relative writing that did not capture story-like fantasies but rather highlighted disillusionment. 

In contrast with his original style, Lyricist and Vocalist Trenton Woodley’s writing, has proven to be a cinematic dream with enough whimsical metaphors to keep the listener wanting more past album end. Drift was driven by an edginess accompanied by a minor-led melody and powerfully slowed down drums that explode with a burst of sound every time they are hit. 

Sadly, the album abandons these artisanries of craft in exchange for mainstream air-time in a terribly executed effort. 

“Kingdom Come” initiates the album and is mainly composed of claps and Woodley’s whisper-sung vocals. In albums prior, Woodley passionately splits his voice and continues to exhibit his love for his art. However on “Kingdom Come,” however experimental the band would like to play off its effort, Woodley’s bridge for the track exhibits a passionless attempt, not only denoting the loss of quality in writing, but for his vocal performance as well, “I can’t pretend that it doesn’t plague me/I can’t pretend that it hasn’t changed me/I can’t pretend that I’m not afraid of the end/I wonder/Is God getting lonely.” The repetition of lyrics can often work in other projects and styles, even other Post-Hardcore acts, but here it only exhibits how underdeveloped the song was prior to production. 

“Monster” was the second single from the album, but it actually achieved what the band was looking for, mainstream popularity. It’s worth noting the difference between selling out and getting mainstream airtime/popularity. Simply because artists decide to take on musical characteristics that are close to what gets immediate popular exposure, does not mean they sell out and neither does searching for mainstream popularity.  

The term is derived from foundational fans of the respective artist who feel they sacrifice the artistry themselves in search of economic and superficial success. In that aspect the term is justified, but in regards to the track, “Monster” does neither, but did act as the stereotypical faux-edgy rock song used to hype up golf matches. It is worth noting the song was used for WWE Pay Per View Event; WWE Super Show Down.  Once again the writing and artistry falls short exhibiting no melodic experimentation or departures, rather just paces along one verse over another. 

“Overthinking” serves as the echo to previous albums and Woodley’s amazing ability to emote through story-like lyricism. The track was not only the first single from the album, but is about how we as individuals often look for things in other people that we have preconceived exist, when in actuality it is what we’ve tricked ourselves into believing is there. Trenton’s first verse states, “I could have just held my tongue/I should have just filled my lungs/Breathe in, breathe out and repeat/But you know me well, or at least in as far as I can tell/You should have known better than telling me I should have/Held it together for us, when I’m barely together myself/ I’m barely together myself.” The lyrics highlight Woodly’s attachment while also emoting a form of regret and human aspect to how we tether ourself to a thought, not reality, denoting more of Woodley’s whimsical story-telling ability. This is one of the things that gives me hope about the album and band’s future. 

A lyrical departure, musical departure, and ultimate departure from identity, “Anon” falls flat. If a band was to give as little effort as possible, go into a recording studio and simply write the simplest pop rock songs ever, it would result in this album, a couple beats short of a Maroon 5 album.