Deaf Havana - Fools and Worthless Liars
Record Label: Wolf at Your Door Records
Release Date: November 7, 2011
When a band alters their style, they inevitably polarize fans and critics, acquiring new ones and losing old. When Deaf Havana opted not to replace departing lead singer Ryan Mellor, they altered their style to the densely populated punk-rock genre. James Veck-Gilodi (V-G) took over full vocals and writing duties for their sophomore release, Fools and Worthless Liars (FAWL).
The change in style becomes immediately apparent in the album's lead off track with V-G delivering acoustic ballad 'The Past Six Years', seemingly reflecting on how the band and he personally has changed, he sings ''These days my friends aren't who they used to be/they were all sinners and drunks, but now they're too mature for me'' . As far as album openers go, it's about as good as they come. The next track 'Youth in Retrospect' announces the bands new punk-rock flavor with biting guitars, vibrant melody and a ripping chorus. This song got me genuinely excited for the potential of this record, however, the album does at times fall into cliches. The 'woahs' which feature in 'I Will Try' take away from a song which otherwise has its moments. 'Little White Lies' sounds like a Boys Like Girls hit and is far from their best.
V-G shows his vocal range in 'Anemophobia' but it fails to reach any great heights, luckily the album's lead single 'I'm a Bore, Mostly' really shines up next as a punk-rock release with V-G producing a well paced and catchy song about his writers block and his reluctance to be the lone front man of the band. Its relentless guitars and incisive lyrics are a highlight. While Deaf Havana's first album required multiple listens to take in the lyrics and the relationship between Mellor and Veck-Gilodi, FAWL is a more straightforward release. This becomes evident as you give the record more and more spins, with songs being solid if unspectacular. 'Hunstanton Pier', 'Filthy Rotten Scoundrel' and 'Things Change, Friends Leave and Life Doesn't Stop For Anybody' fall into the 'solid' category.
FAWL is awoken from its temporary slumber by 'Leeches' with it's punchy tempo and excellent bridge which was a feature of Deaf Havana's old work. V-G pulls the momentum back with 'The World or Nothing', but not to the song's detriment as he produces one of his best lyrical efforts of the record, "I know you can do better than this/to get out this rut you're in/in my eyes you're giving in'" the song perhaps reflecting on V-G's own writer's block. The penultimate track 'Nelson's County' really follows in the same vein as 'The World or Nothing' but with a very pleasing up-tempo style. Finally the album closes with 'Fifty-Four', the only traditional punk-rock love ballad on the record. All Time Low's 'Therapy' and FTSK's 'Coffee Break' would be honored to be mentioned in the same breath.
Fans old and new can appreciate just how talented Veck-Gilodi is, in the past his melodic voice was the perfect foil for Mellor's emotional screams. V-G still shines as the sole vocalist on the new record, but his voice doesn't offer quite the same impact without Mellor slashing across the top of him.
Deaf Havana has produced a very good punk-rock album, but it lacks an edge which their previous work possesses. For fans who admire Meet Me Halfway, At Least, it might leave you wondering whether their change in style is really for the best.
"Punk-rock ballad" is quite an oxymoron. Plus, ATL's "Therapy" is everything but punk-rock.
I tried to get into this album but I didn't. I like some songs (The Past Six Years, Little White Lies, I'm a Bore Mostly, Hunstanton Pier and Fifty Four) but towards the end all songs start to sound the same.
Speaking of similar-sounding bands, I like Young Guns' last record more.