Hands Like Houses release powerful new rock album
By AIDEN BEAN
Australian rock group Hands Like Houses has never been one to stray away from a challenge. Their past two releases, “Ground Dweller” (2012) and “Unimagine” (2013), have pushed the boundaries of alternative rock and post-hardcore while still holding on to those anthemic choruses and peppy instrumentation, ensuring them lifelong success not only in small punk clubs, but potentially bigger arenas as well. All this hard work and steadfast dedication has finally resulted in the strongest album of their career.
“Dissonants” sets a high bar for many other alternative bands to follow and likely fail. It takes everything great from their first two releases and uses these elements to create an album largely devoid of filler, resulting in an album screaming with memorable hooks, powerful vocals and authentic instrumentation from many genres. In a perfect world, this album would be Hands Like Houses big break.
Album opener and first single, “I Am,” is the first of many anthemic choruses about outcasts and rebellion, a fairly clichéd lyrical topic, but Hands Like Houses writes them so well. Also evident on this track, unlike those from their past releases, is a hardcore-influenced breakdown that rears its head throughout most of the other tracks on this record. The guitars are in the forefront on this one, finally giving Matt Cooper and Alexander Pearson the opportunity to show off just a little bit past the genre norms.
“Perspectives” is the perfect follow-up and an almost pristine example of a one-two punch. Electronica influences are few and far between, astonishing considering that this band was once labeled as “electronicore.” Listeners can tell the band is truly aiming for something different, long-lasting and memorable past the first few listens. With another exciting breakdown in this track, the heavy influences are intact but the chorus screams, “Put me on the radio” in the best way possible.
Their most recent single, “Colourblind,” is the highlight of the record. A perfect representation of their influences, this one moves through a Linkin Park-inspired intro, Jonny Craig-sounding verses, a huge pop punk chorus, an atmospheric middle section and an almost djent-styled breakdown. Mid-tempo track “Glasshouse” showcases the group’s technicality in the intro which leads to a crushing breakdown. An element that may shock core fans on this tune, and a couple others throughout the album, is the emphasis on drum-and-bass styled patterns, particularly on verses. However, unlike the trend in EDM music, Hands Like Houses’ style of drum-and-bass is 100 percent authentic and leads to a much fuller sound.
While the first half of the record was predominantly heavy, the second half showcases the group’s ability to meld various genres, particularly pop, into their hard-rocking sound.
“Division Symbols” has the most memorable chorus on the record and, if slowed down, could pass off as a late ’90s Backstreet Boys track. “Momentary” bends genres into R&B and may leave listeners wondering if it’s Justin Bieber they’re hearing. But he track is no love song or acoustic jam – the chorus still hits like a thousand bricks. “Motion Sickness” has a spine-shivering bridge and buildup, with emotionally strained vocals courtesy of Trenton Woodley—who has really come into his own on this record, often wowing the listener with vocal trickery and powerful pipes—and an interesting instrumentation, featuring the first guitar solo on the record.
As technically interesting and powerfully hard-hitting as this record truly is, there are only two slight disappointments in the form of single “New Romantics” and later album track “Grey Havens.” “New Romantics” simply relies on everything Hands Like Houses is good at, breaking no true new ground and relying on the simplistic moments from many of their past songs. Other than an industrial-sounding and fairly interesting breakdown, “Grey Havens” is the same deal. A typical second-half filler track, the song doesn’t stand out and gets lost in the onslaught of a fairly long and adventurous album. On their own, these two songs would probably stand out as some of the best rock songs of this year.
Hands Like Houses never fails to disappoint but this is when we’ve finally seen them transform from post-hardcore little leagues to arena rock. Not many bands can rock a heavy sound and counteract that with influences ranging from pop to punk to R&B. Bands with this amount of diversity and intrigue are the ones who are usually capable of producing not only genre-shifting records from here on out, but also booking those bigger gigs, expanding their fan base, getting on the radio and bringing their sound to the mainstream. With “Dissonants,” a frankly astounding, well-thought-out, well-produced, authentic, real and interesting alternative rock record, Hands Like Houses has finally crossed that barrier.