| After listening to Hawthorne Heights' upcoming album, If Only You Were Lonely, for much longer than I really should have, I've come to a fairly definite conclusion: Hawthorne Heights has a good thing going.
I've enjoyed Hawthorne Heights ever since I stole a copy of The Silence In Black and White a while back, even more so after hearing an acoustic version of "Silver Bullet." Comparing the acoustic and release versions of the song, I remember thinking to myself, "Self, these guys have such an awesome stripped-down, quiet sound when they want to. Why do they even bother screaming, when they've got me captured with murmuring?" I had no answer then, so I simply sat back and played, over and over again, one of the few contemporary acoustic renditions that I can stand, much less like.
Since then, I've come to accept that Hawthorne Heights is simply a more hardcore band than I want them to be. They like the yelling, as do the majority of their fans, who I suppose aren't quite as fixated with being able to sing along as I am, and they are, by nature, angrier people than I can generally relate with. I've accepted it, I've made peace with it, and I've given up on singing along.
So what does Hawthorne Heights do, as soon as I come to grips with the fact that I'll never fully be able to get into their music?
They turn the tables again. If Only You Were Lonely is a softer album that nonetheless maintains HH's recognized commitment to screamo. The rage is still there, but it's more accessible now, and easier to separate from the guitar. I'm eager to see how the masses will react; for a number of HH's fans, The Silence in Black and White was an introduction to the screamo genre. While HH is by no means the definitive forerunner of screamo/aggro, the fact remains that for many, they are the first and only link to the world of XO. How will HH's new album, which leans towards the emo side, be received by the angry mob, the wilder, metal-er crowd that listens to XO to get away from the sob-story scene of My Chemical Romance and Dashboard Confessional?
Make no mistake—If Only is nothing so mellow. It does not diminish Hawthorne Heights in the slightest; this is not an emo-pop album. With songs like "Decembers," however, one might get just such a wrong impression. "Decembers," If Only's closing track, is undeniably an emo song. From the desultory piano opening to the calm, mournful chorus, the song sticks out as the token softcore song to make it onto the album. I mean, I listen to the lyrics "Please slow down girl, we're movin' way too fast" and I ask myself, "Self, did... did Robby accidentally send me a Copeland song with the rest of this HH CD? Or did Hawthorne Heights team up with... Mae?"
That's the extreme, though—"Decembers" stands out not only from HH's previous work, but also from the rest of If Only; it's certifiable emo, yes, but it's also the calmest HH gets on this album. The rest of the songs, while generally more sung than screamed (in comparison with The Silence, anyway), are all faster-paced and higher-charged. With "This Is Who We Are," you've got the wicked combination of urgent whispering and enraged outbursts, coupled by powerful guitar crescendos, which made songs like "Niki FM" and "Ohio Is For Lovers" such hits. The strident, recognizable guitar is prevalent throughout the album—Hawthorne Heights' infamous mastery of double- and triple-guitar is, as always, a force to be reckoned with. Whether it's used to simultaneously highlight, boost, and compete with JT Woodruff's vocal work, or merely to fill whole stretches of "This Is Who We Are," "I Am On Your Side," and "Where Can I Stab Myself In The Ears" with faux-echo-y cacophonies of guitarral mayhem, it completely adds to the band's sound. While instruments aren't my forte, I nonetheless feel confident saying that hearing two or three melodies under the vocals is awesome. I'm so hip.
To get onto more familiar ground, lyrics; I can really get into nearly every song on this track; in fact, aside from "Breathing In Sequence", the only song that didn't reverberate with me was "Decembers". Shocking, is it not? That the one softcore song they put on the album doesn't do it for me, after I was so much happier with the acoustic "Silver Bullet" than most of The Silence. Otherwise, each song is superbly written, my personal favourites being "Cross Me Off Your List", "Saying Sorry"—which will creep into your head and stay there, tainting your relationships and envenoming your wit—and my very favourite, "Five Words Or Less."
To wrap things up—If Only You Were Lonely takes the well-written, frustrated, driven angst of The Silence In Black and White, dips sparingly into emo, and puts out another excellent album; If Only—the same great Hawthorne Heights taste (guitar and lyric excellence) with fewer calories (less with the XO, more with the sad). Definitely check out this album.
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| IF ONLY YOU WERE LONELY
1) This Is Who We Are
2) We Are So Last Year
3) Language Lessons (Five Words or Less)
4) Pens and Needles
<< 5) Saying Sorry >>
6) Dead in the Water
7) I Am on Your Side
8) Breathing in Sequence
9) Light Sleeper
10) Cross Me Off Your List
11) Where Can I Stab Myself in the Ears