Review Summary: I knew about WOHO, way back in 2019.
Do you remember what it was like hearing Jimmy Eat World before they were famous？ Or maybe Brand New, before those 2006 leaked demos were remastered？ These are the vibes I get from The Prettiest Boys In Town
, the third LP of 2019 by We Are Only Human Once (WOHO). This is very much a starving artist scenario: this is the kind of guy who releases five EP’s in a year, and then turns around the very next year with three LP’s – a prolific rate of production that would make even King Gizzard or The Oh Sees green with envy. His twenty five Facebook followers ought to be excited about all the new material, but honestly none of those quite live up to this album. It’s not the perfect record – the production is very raw and lo-fi, and there’s a few misfires with vocal/audio samples – but there’s a whole lot of talent in this project just waiting to be unveiled. A fellow site member summarized this album better than I ever could in one sentence: “Kinda feels like stumbling upon someone's bedroom concert, but you sit outside the door to listen because it happens to rule.” I invite you to pull up a chair alongside me – because this is indeed something special in the making.
From the opening moments of ‘Left Out’ we’re treated to Clarity
vibes; a to-and-fro beat channels echoes of ‘Hear You Me’, only with some suspectly-executed experimental vocal effects. The song gears up in intensity as it fades out, leading right into the ambitious seven and a half minute ‘Dearest’ – which proves the project’s ability to effortlessly sustain “epic” indie-rock progressions. Electric guitars dominate the song, although it settles into an acoustic sweet spot late and features the earworm chorus: “I’m a ghost who is bound to this town.” It justifies its length by being one of the very best songs on The Prettiest Boys In Town
. ‘Haven’t Slept’ is an acoustically dominated ballad of sorts; WOHO again proves to be very adept at alternating between soft, lush sounding indie-folk and heavier, electric alt-rock. The primary drawback again comes in the form of an ill-timed spoken passage: “hey, why don’t you catch some Z’s at my place, I don’t have a bed I only have a couch but we can share that fucking couch, until both of our backs break [inaudible].” At best it aims for the kind of effect Andrew McMahon frequently achieved on Everything In Transit
, but at worst it takes a nearly flawless song and adds a moment that will make some listeners wince out of embarrassment. ‘Logs and Wooden Shields’ is a pretty little bridge of an acoustic ditty that leads into the far more accomplished ‘Strange’ – a song that sounds like a blend between stripped-down yet upbeat pop-punk and seasoned indie-rock. It’d make for a great single, and it’s an excellent way to punctuate the album’s first half.
The album’s latter half is a little tidier. ‘Car Doors’ and ‘Giving Up Happy’ sound like WOHO doing his best Car Seat Headrest impersonation; ‘Blisters’ features one of the best guitar intros on the album as well as its best ambience/atmosphere; and the final two songs - ‘Masks of Leather Bracelets’ and ‘Boys and Girls’ comprise just under twenty minutes of music with some of his best guitar melodies and most creative structural ideas. Closer ‘Boys and Girls’ is particularly impressive, beginning as an echoed vocal passage that gradually piles on emotive verses that swell with more and more anticipation at each refrain before fading into silence. After a couple minutes of light static, the track comes back into focus for something of an encore – this haunting acoustic ballad where we’re left with some parting words: “Just don’t give up on what I say.”
We Are Only Human Once’s bandcamp page describes its own music as “poorly vocalized elongated snippets about heartbreak.” Even though I disagree about the quality of the vocals (despite the raw production, they’re quite good at times), that statement conveys where this album’s heart is at. Musically, it’s lo-fi, under-produced, and unconcerned with grandiosity; lyrically it’s heartbroken, lost, and searching for companionship. It’s all the best things about the indie/rock/emo icons that it emulates, just without the glitz and glamor. That stripped-down approach may make the music less marketable on a wide scale, but it also makes it a whole lot more meaningful to those of us who are willing to peel away the layers. With a little more time and exposure, we may be looking back at The Prettiest Boys In Town
as the album that launched We Are Only Human Once to bigger and better things. Regardless of what the future holds, however, this is at the very least an album you can lose yourself in – and one that practically nobody else knows exists. Maybe someday, we'll be saying "I knew about WOHO, way back in 2019."