Dave Hause’s latest album, Kick, starts out with an aural kick up the proverbial with loud shouts. The song continues Hauseian themes of worrying about the inexorable passage of time, and the fear that precious time was wasted in the past: “what if we were all wrong?/ Maybe we should have learned to shoot to kill instead of learning Van Halen songs.” Overall, though, the despair is for the loss of the fire of youth: “I used to spit it right back in their face/now I do what I’m told/I used to be bold.”
As well as echoing previous sentiments, the sound should be familiar to fans. It’s hi-hat heavy and ready to kick in to full throttle at a moment’s notice. However, it sees a more melodic turn vocally than previous releases; perhaps trying for a more radio-friendly sound.
Hause has a history of ‘The’ songs. The Ditch is this album’s version. It’s another melodic singalong about creeping time and encroaching fears: “If I can’t get down off this ledge/I better make a home of it.” It’s about being able to accept what can’t be changed as long as love remains.
The album’s title appears in both The Ditch and the next track, Saboteurs, both talking about kicking against the current or tide. That impulse is key to the worldview on this record, with love as the motivator: “In the morning glow, I’ll hold you close/while lunatics clutch the nuclear codes.” This seems the most successful song so far at combining a catchy, singalong hook with a more commercial rock sound.
Civil Lies has a metronomic beat echoing the ticking described in the song. There’s some great melodic vocal work and a striking sense of claustrophobia with dystopian, questioning lyrics and close instrumentation.
Weathervane continues Hause’s longheld fascination with burning plastic and landscapes. It has an ’80s pop rock intro and a catchy as hell sound. Like Civil War, it speaks to paranoia and a destabilised sense of self and mental health. The lyrics are a litany of things gone wrong and the problems of living as an individual without money or power in an oppressive society.
Warpaint takes it one step further and details the daily indignities and fears women face: “keep your keys between your fingers as if you had a choice.” The B-52’s style vocal in the chorus reverberates: “no mercy in a man/no mercy in a man’s world.” It’s a role that multi-instrumentalist Kayleigh Goldsworthy takes on so well live. Warpaint is a warm song balancing indignation, recognition and empathy.
OMG has a modern poppy sound but is still replete with Hause’s imagery of ivory towers and impending apocalypse. It has a bouncy sound reminiscent of some of Brian Fallon’s solo work, though more political and pessimistic: “My American girl and I watching the world burn down.” Hause’s themes are now magnified by world events, more so than on his previous three albums. “Here we go again/but doesn’t it seem like it’s gotten worse” is a good summary of the entire record.
Fireflies is a nostalgic ballad about desperately trying to regain the certainties and carefree feelings of youth. One of the most poignant lines references his debut record. There, the refrain was “this could be our year.” Now, that hope is gone: “every day seems less OK and it hasn’t been our year.” Again, this album’s metaphor surfaces: “let’s kick against the current and I’ll hold you if we drown.”
Finally it seems like we’re getting a positive vision for the present and future: “this could be a paradise.” However, the optimum word is ‘could.’ The lyric continues “we’re skin and bone/our teeth are all gone.” There’s an interesting take coming up, given the Christian imagery swirling through Hause’s previous album, Bury Me In Philly: “sweet Lord, you don’t call to say you love me anymore…it was heaven knowing you.”
Given the intense pessimism and questioning that permeates the record, Bearing Down is shocking and worrying: “I’ve been considering oblivion tonight…Robin Williams was right, it’s bearing down.” Thankfully, the love that has always been the bulwark in Hause’s creative world is there in force: “swan dive/leave it all behind/but now there’s you…for the first time in forever I’m certain that I can’t go.” The Jason Isbell If We Were Vampires style poetry of the sentiment shines through: “you’re the one I want to wither with.”
From the first to the last, Hause demonstrates a clear and bitter understanding of the negative effect of the modern world on the individual, and the importance of love to withstand the dangerous swells and swirls. Both Hause and his creative collaborator, younger brother Tim, have found that love in recent times. It will be interesting to see how Hause’s worldview sharpens and changes as he adjusts to life with twin newborns to protect, worry about and fiercely love.
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