Friday, March 1, 2013

Top 7 House of Heroes tracks

As a teenage, you always wonder why your parents are still listening to the same music they liked back when they were teenagers.  And then you go to college, and then you graduate college, and you realize you can't buy four CDs a month like you used to, so you stick with your old favorite for a little while, and before you know it you can't figure out why all the new stuff that's popular is so terrible and you wonder why they don't still make awesome music like they did ten years ago.

And then one day you remember wondering why your parents never moved past their decade of choice, and suddenly you get it.

I don't think many of us get very many new "favorite bands" once they get to be about 30 years old or so.  Or if we do, they don't really reach the same elite status in our minds as our favorite bands from when we were younger. I've made an attempt to discover new Christian rock artists I can get into, but for the most part there just aren't many.  I'd say this is because the genre is suffering lately, but the truth is it's always been pretty thin on quality and I just wasn't very picky back in the day.  (Not to say there weren't a few gems, and one day Robbie and Isaac will wonder why I'm still listening to them)  One band that I've discovered fairly recently who I actually would lump in as one of my favorite bands is the rock group House of Heroes. I'd heard the name bounced around a few places, but what got me to check them out was an interview I read with Five Iron frontman Reese Roper, who commented that HoH was one of his current faves.  Reese and I have had pretty similar taste in music in the past, so I checked The End Is Not The End out from the library next time I was there.  After about three tracks, I was hooked. 

It's difficult for me to tell you what HoH is like, because I have three of their albums (plus a few Christmas tracks and an EP of Beatles covers) and they're all drastically different.  The often-lighthearted Suburba is a collection of rock anthems nostalgically recalling the triumphs of youth in the suburbs, while the preceding The End Is Not The End (one of my very favorite albums) is an intense, often emotionally-charged collection of songs that are mostly themed in the post-World War II era for some reason.  The most recent album, Cold Hard Want, is more of your "typical" rock/alternative record without following any specific theme.  I love the band's harmonies, I love the aggressive guitars, I love the epic feel they bring to their faster stuff, and I appreciate the delicateness with which they handle their ballads.  Many of their tunes also have a strong sense of storytelling to them, which of course is always a selling point with me. 

While HoH is considered to be a "Christian band," they carry the name in the same way that, say, Switchfoot does: very few of their songs are strongly, overtly faith-based. Instead, you see them examining life through the lens of their faith.  There are a few earnest songs which I'd consider worshipful, but very rarely do you hear the name of Jesus.  (This seems to be a trend with my favorite artists)  The lyrics are often laced with biblical imagery, and you might miss the reference if you're not familiar with the scripture. For example, my favorite stanza from the song "Constant" features the lyric "We always want time to hoard up our treasures and bury our dead/ It's true what he said, the foxes have holes but the king has no place for his head."  Stuff like that. 

And full disclosure: I am a johnny-come-lately with this band, so I don't know any of their indie stuff from before The End.  Sorry if any true HoH fans come across this.  You can call me a poser if you want.  

Anyway, it's very difficult for me to narrow this down to seven, partially because I like a lot of their songs and partially because the albums are often complete pieces (sorta like what I've said before about Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane CD) and it's difficult to break them into pieces, at least in my mind.  Nevertheless, here are my personal


 #7: Constant
from Suburba

I pray for relief
But relief doesn't come, just the will to press on
With only your song, 
Your love makes me strong when all hope is gone.

I know I just said they don't have a lot of overtly faith-based songs, but this is probably one of the few, and I consider it very worshipful.  A modern-day psalm, if you will. 

Aaaaaand I don't know that there's really much more to say about it.  It's very pretty. I like it.

#6: I Am a Symbol
 from Cold Hard Want
First man through is an easy kill
But no one's safe if we all stand still
So let my life be a song
And let that song carry on.

This is a very dramatic song, which is of course one of the reasons it sticks with me.  This is one of those which is clearly written from a believer to a believer, but the truth inherent in the song goes beyond just the realm of faith.  I love the way the song keeps building, I love the epic chorus at the end, what can I say, I love the song.  This is also the song that closes out the CD, so it's a pretty cool way to go out.  

#5: The Cop
from Cold Hard Want

The rain falls on the blessed ones
The rain falls on the damned
And you've changed my mind
And I love you more than I love myself

Here's an example of HoH using a song to tell a story.  This is a pretty short song that manages to tell an awful lot in its three minutes. It's both sweet and sad, both solemn and celebratory, and sometimes it still manages to get me to brush back a tear.  But the bottom line is it's a love story about a guy who's been disillusioned by his years serving on the force and the young woman who helped him find hope again.  It sets it up, gets you to care, leaves you with something to think about, and then it's done.  Plus it's pretty.  All in 3:10.  

#4: If
from The End Is Not The End
I could be in love if you wore that dress every day
With your hair just so and your eyes of gray
You make a beautiful bird on a line

Yeah, it's just another song about a guy pining for a girl he doesn't have, and yeah, the lyrics are a little strange.  (He calls her a "beautiful bride of Frankenstein."  Is that a complement?)  But you know what?  It's ridiculously catchy and really dang sing-along-able, and I cannot get enough of it.  

#3: God Save the Foolish Kings
from Suburba
Midnight at the school behind the bleachers
Oh, there's gonna be a rumble,
But the cops won't be notified...

All right, official music video!

This song is incredibly cheesy.  It's this massive epic about two gangs meting to rumble under the bleachers at high school while their girlfriends at home beg them not to do anything crazy.  The song is a rock anthem celebrating the adrenaline-pumping idiocy of youth. "We were young, we were dumb, we thought this was the biggest thing in the world at the time, and something about it was awesome."  Musically speaking, this song is just a monster.  It flat out rocks.  It always makes me grin and brings to my mind the phrase We are always the hero in our own story.  This song is Just For Fun, and while there are many who believe that Christian artists always need to have Something Significant to say, well, I disagree.  Sometimes it's fine just to be epic and awesome.  

#2: By Your Side
from The End Is Not The End

And we were soldiers then, our bodies in the sand
And like that sand through our hands go our grandest plans
And just to see your face for one moment,
I'd cross the ocean again
The end is not the end...

Okay, are you ready?

Another story song about two brothers who grow up together in the plains, go off to war together, where one dies.   This song is the surviving brother grappling with life, death, faith, and the pain of losing his brother.  It is a sad, hopeful, beautiful song.  Plus, it comes right after #1 on this list on the album, and together it's one heck of an emotional sock-in-the-gut.  Now, it may just be because I'm the father of two boys myself that this one hits so hard.  But even if that is the case, this is my list, so that's a valid enough reason to put it at #2.  

Seriously.  I love this song.  Almost enough to make it...

#1: Code Name: Raven
from The End Is Not The End
I saw their black coats forming lines
They hit our beaches running
We're on our knees, but not to pray...

I don't really even know where to start with this song. It's the combination of everything I've lauded elsewhere in this list.  It's big, it's aggressive, it's got the epic chorus, the tight harmonies, the storytelling, the philosophy of sacrifice, and the emotional pull.  It practically assaults the listener with drums and guitar straight out of the gate. It builds suspense. It's exhilarating.  And it just doesn't sound quite right unless it's played very loudly.  To me, it's just about everything that I love about HoH packed into about four minutes of music and then shaken like a can of soda.  

So there you go.  A quick look at one of my New Faves.  Hope you can find something in there that ya like.