Oak House - Hot or Mood - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Oak House - Hot or Mood

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2017-04-07

Good music is good music. I was a teacher, and one day a high school senior came right up to me and quoted Radiohead lyrics. I wasn’t a big fan, but those words just meant a lot to him. So I listened. While he was speaking, I had a flashback to another student, some years before, who quoted Rush lyrics to me. Again, not the greatest fan, but I could hear the sincerity in his voice. So I listened to him, too. And I can recall with such clarity my own high school hand writing down the words to Jethro Tull’s “Wind Up.” I loved those lyrics. They meant a lot to me. As I said, good music is good music.  And Oak House’s new album Hot or Mood is good music.

Yes, this band does remind me at times of the aforementioned Radiohead, although this may be because the lead vocalist Gresham Cash sings in a higher voice not dissimilar to Thom York. There’s also an intense conflagration of grunge, psych, and atmospheric music. But I’ve been listening to music a long time. The fact that bands like Triumvirat or Le Orme sound something like ELP doesn’t diminish their value. Heck, Rush sounds like (the much beloved) Budgie! Good music is good music. And I love it all.

This one starts with “Damp Eyes” and a bit of Tangerine Dream electronics. Then Connor Sabula’s bass brings everything back down to Earth. Gresham Cash’s high register vocals carve a pretty good melody. He sings, “Dysfunction is my favorite friend.” It’s that sort of album. Guitars hover in a distorted lunar landscape. Yes, it is that sort of album. By now Wes Gregory’s percussion has joined the intensity. There is an immense wall of rock passion. Sure, there is grunge, but there is also a cinematic beauty to the whole thing.

There’s more. “Reticence” follows with a few nice introductory blips and the proceeds to create an intense journey of a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a pretty great prog rock album from the 70’s like Pink Floyd’s Animals. I’m thinking about the “Ha ha charade you are” part from “Pigs (Three Different Ones).” And there’s a nice melody to boot. “Spirit” is piano based with a wonderful vocal. It slows things down but doesn’t lessen the depth of the music. This is followed By “Cut That Out” which is the template for this band: Yes, there are grungy guitars; yes, there are distorted sounds; yes, there is an urgent vocal; but, yes, and most importantly, the band writes good songs.

My friend Kilda Defnut believes that life is a continual day to day multiple guess test. Each of us is confronted in every moment with a series of choices. Kilda believes that when it’s all over, if 60% of answers are correct, well, that person making the right daily multiple choices gets to go to a nice place which is devoid of awful music like Katy Perry and awful music shows like America’s Got Talent. Tonight, I had an option of watching more of political foolishness on television or listening to a great rock album. I think I passed the test.

Actually, I think I passed the test with flying colors. Holy cow! The song “Esque” is a tour de force of passionate vocals, distorted guitars, and rock solid drums and bass. Just listen to the song at the 3:29 moment and enjoy the lovely sonic ride. Wow! Seriously! This is as good as anything I listened to way back in my progressive rock loving days. It’s as good as anything my Rush fan student loved. And it’s as good as the kid in my class who adored Radiohead ever heard. It may even be as great as the music of (the much beloved) Budgie! Yeah, good music is just good music.

And (to quote Procol Harum) “still there’ll be more.”  The songs “Seventeen” and “Mundane” propel the album into further depth with emotive distortion and pretty great contrasting melodies. This band deals a hand of cards laced with juxtaposition. Good music is always laced with contraries. “Song of Myself” is a piano ballad whose title recalls one of my favorite poets, Walt Whitman, and musically conjures the intensity of one of my all time favorites, Peter Hammill. (Yeah, I know, that’s saying a lot.) “Around the Room” rocks in a way that removes the Oak House sound from any comparisons. “Spring” finishes the set. An acoustic guitar is a nice addition that enters the album before all the drama erupts for one more time. There’s an Eastern flare with a guitar interlude (more of that please!) and then the passion returns only to end with a bit of distorted denouement.

This album is filled with passion, intensity, and beauty. Yeah, Kilda Defnut is right: life is a momentary multiple guess test.  I could have watched political fol de rol on television. I chose to listen to this rock record. I think I made the right choice because, when everything is said and done, good music is good music. Let’s just say that I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.



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