Review Summary: Fools and Worthless Liars finds Deaf Havana reaching for a completely different bag of influences than what is present on any of their previous releases, and it pays off extremely well.Fools and Worthless Liars
finds Deaf Havana reaching for a completely different bag of influences than what is present on any of their previous releases. Originally a post-hardcore outfit closer to the likes of Every Time I Die, the band decided to go in a more melodic direction when they lost main vocalist/screamer Ryan Mellor. Clean vocalist/lead guitarist James Veck-Gilodi took the helm and provided all vocals for this album, but that is not the only differentiating factor of this release. The music that accompanies Veck Gilodi’s ample and catchy vocals are much more geared towards an alt rock style that deviates from the southern-style guitar riffs and frenzied breakdowns of the past. This album is an obvious nod to their less aggressive influences, and even though it is a huge departure from their past releases, it seems that Deaf Havana have found a sound that comes much more naturally to them.
Veck-Gilodi’s vocals are incredibly catchy, with more than enough grit to make up for the glossy production. This album is the band’s strongest to date, as the sound on Fools and Worthless Liars is very authentic; the lyrics directly reference the writer’s life. While that can be incredibly grating on the listener and make bands seem self-important, it actually works in the opposite way here. They provide Deaf Havana with reference points to give their listeners a better understanding of where they come from. From the troubles of touring to the emotional exhaustion of chasing one’s dreams, it simply boosts the ability that one has to relate to them on a realistic level. They are not arena-level rock stars; they are a band that are struggling in their own unique version of a 9-5 job, unable to break out and garner the level of success that many bands only dream of. The irony here is by touching on the ideas of underachieving, they have achieved writing the strongest album to date. The band’s transition to a more pop/alternative rock sound was a very smooth one, and the songwriting is a large part in making that transition seamless. The interesting part is that this album was created by Veck-Gilodi and drummer Tom Ogden, as the other two band members could not write or perform on the album due to work obligations. This effort put Veck-Gilodi in the forefront, both in terms of songwriting as well as coming up with lyrical concepts. This worked out in Deaf Havana’s favor, as the instrumentation is just varied enough to keep the listener’s interest. Surprise-opener “The Past Six Years” is a slow-paced acoustic ditty that chronicles, you guessed it, the past six years of the band. While the song is straight-forward both in vocal delivery and lyrical approach, it is a fitting song to immediately introduce the listener to the new, more melodic Deaf Havana.
With so many bands shrouding their lyrics in near-archaic metaphors or artistic concepts, it is refreshing honesty that we hear throughout the entirety of Fools and Worthless Liars
. With the lyrics being somewhat self-revealing, it certainly does manifest itself in the vocals tremendously; it is staggering to hear the difference between the sugar-sweet hook of “I Will Try” against the gruff and almost grunge quality of the vocals of “Anemophobia”. When Veck-Gilodi sings “I haven’t felt so ***king drained”, you hear it in his voice in a way that is shockingly intimate. That same intimate quality seems to pervade the album throughout, which is a surprising and welcome formula considering that overpowering choruses dominate most of the songs on this album. Standout track “I’m a Bore, Mostly” starts out by listing his musical heroes in a very creative way:
“I spent most of my days neither sleeping nor awake
Watching pointless documentaries on tornadoes and earthquakes
Coffee keeps me going though
It fuels my wandering mind
Wishing I was Kurt Cobain or Morrissey
It takes up most of my time
It shows with me losing my voice, it always seems a chore
My faith in music slowly disappearing more and more
These tattoos on my hands are there for life
And the songs inside my head won't come out right”
The lyrics here are wry and self-deprecating, and it is a more than welcome departure from the pretentiousness that many bands have adopted. One of the only small grievances that can be lodged at Fools and Worthless Liars
is the pacing of the songs. Many of the songs plod along at a medium pace, making for a more difficult listen front to back. With that being said, many of the songs shine through as being standouts on their own besides the blatantly ripped off riff in “Hunstanton Pier”(from The Honorary Title). “Leeches” also sounds like Deaf Havana has filched a chorus directly from Coheed and Cambria. Other than those two instances, the music is more than adequate and showcases originality in a genre that is not normally conducive to a fresh take. It will be interesting to see how Deaf Havana progress from this album, but Fools and Worthless Liars
is their best release to date and shows the potential for them to cross over into more successful territory while not sacrificing their integrity as a band.