Review Summary: Just another outing for one of music’s most consistently bad bands.
Fret not, avid music listeners: Hawthorne Heights have still got it. Naturally, this “it” I’ve implied isn’t the same “it”-variable that bands like The Classic Crime and Paramore have (x-factor and half-naked Hayley Williams, respectively) but it’s moreso the kind of “it” that you want to slide under the carpet. When I say Hawthorne Heights still have their "it”-factor, it’s not in the way that makes you want to nudge your friend and say “bro, that girl has got it going on!
”, it’s in the way that makes you nudge your friend and warn them that “dude, that girl has gonorrhea.
” This embarrassing “it”-factor, STD-metaphors and all, has always adhered to Hawthorne Heights’ music despite the band veering into poppier territory on Fragile Future
. It’s fair to say that the stigma that the band has earned since their introduction to the scene has screwed over their reputation irreversibly. Unfortunately, in this day and hour, Hawthorne Heights could be progressing a mile-a-minute underneath critic’s noses but listeners will only hear “so cut my wrists and black my eyes!
” when they hear the band’s name. Luckily for the band, escaping this stigma isn’t too much of an issue because, unsurprisingly, the band has progressed very, very little. In fact, they’ve progressed so little that it’s made comparing their latest album Skeletons
to an STD a bit of an overzealous compliment
may be just as nasty, but it’s not nearly as catchy.
See, for all the times Hawthorne Heights tries to at least be an ‘average’ band, Skeletons
manages to only really have two decent songs and a few interesting moments peppered about. These moments, such as the unpredictable time change that interrupts the bridge of ‘Here I Am’, seem to prove that the band isn’t entirely
a bunch of talentless wrecks and make some stretches of Skeletons
quite listenable. For instance, ‘End of the Underground’ boasts a fun, shuffly prechorus (think Saosin’s ‘Changing’ but better) with octaved vocals that nearly redeem the ridiculously cheesy chorus. On a song-to-song basis, the southern acoustic vibe and groove that decorates ‘Gravestones’ almost never gives way to the inherent crappiness that made the band famous and opener ‘Bring You Back’ would almost be a good pop-punk song if it weren’t for the nasally vocals. Yet despite these brief but appreciated redeeming qualities, the brief glimpses of light on Skeletons
can’t overshadow the hulking ***heap that the rest of the album is.
The most explicitly ridiculous parts of Skeletons
, as per usual, is the melodramatic lyrics and the grating delivery that goes along with it. Lyrical gems are a dime a dozen once again, and it really makes you wonder if Hawthorne Heights are playing bait to intentional self-parody or if they’re legitimately as emotionally juvenile as they let on. Although nothing on Skeletons
can truly take on ‘Ohio is For Lovers’, cuts like “I’m so sick of this relationship/Go get a doctor and an ambulance/I need your kiss, it’s the medicine
” and “if you cut me, I will bleed just enough to get your attention
” make a pretty good case. Oh, and if you think that’s bad, wait until you hear vocalist JT Woodruff belt out “my time is running out!
” on ‘Broken Man’ just before the song gives way to the slow bleeping of a heart monitor.
On a musical level, Skeletons
is hugely give and take. While the band tends to create a wall of sound that, while extremely repetitive and boring, never really goes out of its way to offend the listener, all illusions of listenability are completely nullified by vocalist JT Woodruff. His nasally and juvenile tone may have gotten a little more pitch-perfect since the band’s humble beginnings, but his vocals have also managed to get inconceivably annoying. Whether he’s over-pronouncedly stumbling over his words in at the bottom of his range in ‘Nervous Breakdown’ (which sounds ridiculous) or just trying too hard to be Cove Reber (who shouldn’t be imitated anyways) in ‘Unforgivable’, Woodruff’s tone and diction spoils any premise the songs on Skeletons
may have had right off the bat. Even when the band mellows out for the cheesy ‘Picket Fences’ and the emotionally extremist ‘Boy’, Woodruff can’t seem to muster up enough power or emotional venerability to sell his role.
Yet to give praise where praise is due, you simply can’t deny Hawthorne Heights’ consistency. Now four albums in, the band still hasn’t created something worth listening to and you have to respect (or at least admire) their dependability. The band is clearly okay with being a b-movie post-hardcore/pop-punk band, so, kudos to them for knowing who they are. At the end of the day, Skeletons
is further proof that Hawthorne Heights do, in fact, still have "it" in them. And I really, honestly hope that it goes away one day.