House of Fools - Live and Learn Released March 6th, 2007
Though second-guessing was extensive when I first jumped into Live and Learn, it soon become strikingly blatant that House of Fools is so subtly brilliant that it’s a wonder this band hasn’t made it further than they have. First impressions hardly grasp the finer points of the album, so I’m glad I came back to Fools’s debut as quickly as I did. Hailing from North Carolina, this sextet is just one of those bands that really doesn’t need much explanation. Rhythmically solid collectivity and well orchestrated country-influenced pop cadence flow through all fourteen tracks exceptionally, only stumbling on a few tracks here and there. It’s no wonder they were confidently scooped up by Drive-Thru and have been on “Look Out For…” lists ever since. With the release of their incredible debut, Live and Learn, expect a scene of fools for House of Fools real soon.
With a couple songs still lingering on the debut that date back to the band’s self-titled EP (“My Life Before Today”, “Kiss the Haze”), we get a chance to sample both the old and the new. But the tracks we’re still rocking from the EP hold their charm and are in fact some of the best songs on Live and Learn. “Kiss the Haze” is undeniably the highlight of the album’s first half simply because its completely unique sound and best example of that collectivity I spoke of earlier. If it’s not bassist Jeff Linn’s irreplaceable arpeggio-based grooves fronting drummer Phil Bell’s one-two beat, its Matt Bowers’s organ-like keyboard tone backing vocalist Josh King’s lively chorus lead.
And as I witness this perfect soundtrack to warm Southern days, so graciously peppered with hints of The Beatles and The Format, nothing so delightful could be led by any better than the former mentioned frontman. Josh King’s freshly reserved vocals rarely miss a beat, and the rest of the band is staunch to propel King’s vocal style to new heights. Lyrically, Drive-Thru aptly describes them as “open-hearted”. Though standard, if not cliché, biography terminology, it really undermines King’s lyrical range.
“Diving like a bird/I picked the blue out of your eyes/Hijack a plane to France/If we could watch the moon/Dance across the street into a bar/I would never leave/But I know I’ll have to go sometime/You’re hold on me is stronger than the alcohol/That is slowly killing me.”
The second half of the album lacks the energy of the first seven songs, but more down-to-earth tracks such as “Better Part of Me” and “Coke and Smoke” makes up for the fact there are uncharacteristically slower-tempo, etc. songs finishing off the album. I mean, songs like “I Heard a Rumor” are just painful, considering the fantastic formula the band established previously. However, the title-track album closer, “Live and Learn”, finishes the album off nicely with a pleasing piano based jive to jam-band outro.
Though I find myself less and less interested in the going-ons of Drive-Thru Records, House of Fools has the label once again part of my life with one of my favorite releases for 2007 thus far. Live and Learn is a feel-good rock album that experiments with engaging folk elements; evening out to a thoroughly good debut from quite a promising collective. Though a couple of songs included were previously released, there’s no reason why one who even had a slight interest in the EP should pass up this beauty. Live and Learn is gorgeous.
Excellent musicians, mediocre lyrics. But I think it would be much more simple to compare them to classic rock (The Eagles, etc.) instead of saying they're influenced by something as vague as country or folk-rock.