A little bit of Queens of the Stone Age, a little bit of mid tempo ballad, a little bit of Foo Fighters (first two albums only), a little bit of indie pop rock, a little bit of Alice in Chains, the music of Houston seems to be “under the influence” at first. A kind of balance between bitter lyrical lamenting down tempo moods and raucous guitar/drums/bass attacks, for sure. I won’t discuss the poor artwork of the album (maybe a failed attempt at paying homage to Pink Floyd??) because the music prevails over this meaningless visual aesthetic criteria.
opening tune, “Dumb Rock 2”, is really representative of Houston’s
idiosyncrasy : half heavy in an Alice in Chains way, half heavy melodic in a
QOTSA way, half pop ballad-ish. It’s clearly easy on the ear, not in a
negative way. The architecture of the song makes it catchy and likely to be a
single. “It’s a Shame” develops itself differently, with two false starts
and several breaks so as to be provocative and inventive. Listening the whole
album in a row urges me to repeat myself once again : it’s kind of repetitive
at times or rather mush too cohesive. On the other hand, it’s obvious that the
trio has tried to work on these useful musical stereotypes (full stops,
harmonics, gimmicks of all kind) in order to improve them. And it honestly
works, especially with the down tempo songs like “Home for the Holidays” and
“Heave”. Same of the heavier song like “I’m a Girl”, “Big Three”
or “Dumb Rock 1”. The affiliation with QOTSA is particularly obvious when
listening to those but who cares as long as it’s a loud melodious stoner rock
melting pot. Jeff Halland’s voice reminds of many predecessors but not one in
particular, creating a balance between worn out Layne Staley, subtle Josh Homme
and some others. It may be a pity that he does not try to torture it more, so as
to break the balance between heavy music and soft voice at times and then
surprise all the more. Talking about stretching influences, “Our Puffy Little
Lives” sounds to me like a crossover between Alice in Chains and Karate but
you gonna have to check by yourselves to understand me here.
In the end, I might object on the length of the album that is 10 minutes over the line for me with the weaker songs “Weathervane” and “The Time of the Fall of Love”, but this does not prevent me from liking it. However influenced Houston might be, they cannot be blamed for their (good) listenings and appropriations, especially because they explicitly name those inspiring bands.
/sept 1st 2003/