By Alessandro Improta
In case you haven’t noticed, we have a little thing for the small counter-culture that exists in the Provo/Orem area. We are always excited to see different genres outside of synth pop and folk getting done locally. When I heard that HOUSEWARMING PARTY, a local “relationship-oriented punk” band, released an album last month, I was excited to hear what they had to offer.
I call Between Two Mountains an album because it has 10 tracks, but at under 18 minutes this release is closer to an EP than a true full-length. All but 2 tracks are under 2 minutes long, and one is only 47 seconds. Very punk. None of them are over 3 minutes. As you would assume, this makes the album a bit of a whirlwind. Most songs are just barely getting their point across before they end and move on to the next idea, which fans of the genre will appreciate. The album as a whole plays pretty fluidly, with the exception of one or two songs. The gapless playback makes it feel like a whole instead of just 10 individual songs. A lot of the time local releases have a few stand out tracks surrounded by a lot of filler. HOUSEWARMING PARTY’s decision to write short tracks makes it easy to get through without getting bored. There aren’t a lot of local releases that I can say that about.
While I liked the album’s pacing, unfortunately I feel like the short song length helps HOUSEWARMING PARTY out by dissimulating their weak songwriting. They don’t write your average radio-friendly length songs very often, and it is apparent the two times that they venture near the 3 minute mark that they haven’t quite gotten that down yet. We’re going to dissect why one of these songs didn’t land and hopefully offer some helpful advice.
When a track is only a minute or so, you can get away with playing the same section or two of a song repeatedly since it isn’t long enough to really get stale. However, do that for about 3 minutes and it gets old real quick. The title track, “Between Two Mountains,” is probably the best (worst?) example of this. Bear with me as I get technical and talk about chord changes.
The entire song is the same 10 measure section (8 measures alternating between I and IV, and the last two measures playing the V), with the same two measure melody repeated, without variation, 4 times within the first 8 measures of the section. Take that section and repeat it 6 times, with a two chord, 12 measure instrumental break thrown somewhere in between, and you have “Between Two Mountains.” If you’re going to play a simple three chord song, you have three choices: 1. Make it short like your other songs; 2. Have interesting part writing; or 3. Have a heck of a melody. This song does none of these things.
Want an example of a simple song that has all three of those things and is now an absolute classic? Go listen to “Everyday People” by Sly and The Family Stone. Sure, it is a completely different genre, but that song has two chords in it, both of which have the same bass note, and yet that song is fantastic. Beyond being a product of weak songwriting, “Between Two Mountains” is also a really bad performance. It is incredibly loose rhythmically. Sometimes painfully so (listen to 2:10 to 2:13). In punk, there’s a difference between being raw and being sloppy. No one wants to hear timing issues. Hopefully I’m not being too harsh here, but the only thing I found to be good about this song is its title. I actually really like that way of describing living in a valley: being between two mountains.
Now that I am done being a jerk, let’s talk about the good things that HOUSEWARMING PARTY brings to the table. First and foremost, these guys are fun pop/punk! It’s not very often that I hear an album and think to myself, “I would like to see these guys live.” However, that was definitely the case with these guys. There is a lot of energy in songs like “Work Week” and “Mom Said I Can’t Wear Black.” I would imagine a crowd having a lot of fun to those songs particularly. They are also somewhat nostalgic. They, at times, have a classic early to mid 90’s pop/punk feel. “South America,” for example, sounds a lot like an old Green Day song.
To me, the best song on the album, by far, is “Cracked Lips.” It’s a simple melody, but probably the best on the album and the best performance on the album. Even the mix feels better on this track. The harmonies in this song, especially in the chorus, add quite a bit of value to it as well. Lyrically it is the most impressive and relatable. “Take back this jacket ‘cause I can’t have it. Her smell is in the fabric.” I think that line is especially fantastic. The idea of trying to avoid triggering memories by getting rid of the trigger is something I think we can all relate to.
I think Between Two Mountains is a decent first showing for HOUSEWARMING PARTY. Is it the kind of thing I would recommend to all of my friends? No, it isn’t. That being said, I do think that it is worthy of at least one listen for people to decide for themselves. Listening to it several times, I have decided two things about HOUSEWARMING PARTY: I will probably go see them August 5th at The Underground, and “Cracked Lips” needs to make it into my punk playlist. With a little more songwriting experience and some more time in the studio, I think HOUSEWARMING PARTY could shape up to be something really good.
Make sure to check out “Cracked Lips” by HOUSEWARMING PARTY below! You can check them out on Facebook here.