Review Summary: Rediscovering inner beauty.
Acoustic renditions of existing songs have been a rock cliche for decades. Bands from across the rock spectrum have relied on these alternate versions as a quick, easy way to show their sensitive side, and hopefully gain some new fans in the process. While these motivations have occasionally led to iconic, memorable performances that stand the test of time, far too often they feel like cheap cash-ins on hit songs that add absolutely nothing to the original other than being “stripped down” in the most lazy way possible, often exposing weak musicianship or songwriting in the process.
Therefore, one can forgive fans of Australian post hardcore group Hands Like Houses for having a collective moment of trepidation when the band announced their latest endeavor. After exploding onto the scene with two extremely well-received back-to-back albums, Ground Dweller
, Hands Like Houses revealed that they had recorded an EP of “reimagined” acoustic renditions of tracks off Unimagine
, aptly titled Reimagine
. The decision seemed to invite the question of whether these tracks had been truly reworked from the ground up, or were simply a way for the band to cash a quick paycheck. However, from the moment the rhythmic clapping on the first track begins, the listener is made instantly aware that these are no lazy rehashes… these tracks are an entirely new animal. Each of the album’s five tracks have titles that reflect the theme of discovering new beauty in what one thought they already knew, with the original song titles in parentheses to emphasize the difference between these renditions and the originals.
“Recollect (Shapeshifters)” kicks the affair off with clapping and mellow acoustic strumming, giving off a relaxed alt rock/folk vibe. The song does a superb job of retaining the original’s theme of an all-encompassing love while expressing it in a completely different way. Elsewhere, “Revive (Introduced Species)” is set to a tribal beat, and the song’s main melody is transposed from guitar to keyboards, allowing the guitars to add in additional layers of sound that lead to a much richer, fuller composition. The whistling on “Rediscover (No Parallels)” gives it a mellow feeling suitable to the song’s uplifting subject matter, and “Release (A Tale of Outer Suburbia)” is set to minimalistic guitar work over a military drumbeat. However, the most radical “reimagining” on the brief 21-minute release is the finale, “Reflect (Developments)”, which closes the EP on the opening track from Unimagine
. Trading energetic guitars and crashing drums for gospel-inspired backing vocals and light keyboards, the reworking upends the entire composition of the song, revealing an inner beauty that could easily have been missed in the original recording. This makes the track a perfect representation of the EP as a whole, which proves that acoustic renditions don’t have to be boring vocalist-and-guitarist affairs, and in fact are far more successful when the entire band is utilized in new and unexpected ways. With this release, Hands Like Houses have not only bought more time in which to work on their third full-length, but have proved themselves to be far more diverse and interesting a group of musicians than many would expect at first glance. Here’s to expecting the unexpected.