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September 1, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Album Review: Hawthorne Heights – Fragile Future

‘Ohio is for Lovers’ is lyrically probably the worst song ever written. “So cut my wrists and black my eyes. So I can fall asleep tonight, or die.” Seriously. That’s terrible. But it didn’t stop it being one of the most fun emo anthems of ever.

Unfortunately on Fragile Future Hawthorne Heights seem to be missing everything that made ‘Ohio is for Lovers’ fun. For one, the loss of guitarist and backing vocalist (screams!) Casey Calvert shows heavily. The band has supposedly “beefed up the guitars … added gang vocals, choirs and all sorts of effects” to compensate. It hasn’t worked.

The chorus on ‘Until the Judgment Day’ is an excellent example. The vocals are thin and reedy (not an uncommon criticism of emo), but that’s hardly fatal. What is fatal is how the guitars (two of them) mirror the vocals. The riff is too simple, and effects will not hide that. Not simple in a ohmygodletsrockthefuckouttothis way either. Simple as in boring. The choir-based backing vocals (overused throughout the album) contribute nothing more than an again too-simplistic countermelody. The enthusiasm just isn’t there.

The lyrics are, however, still hilariously apalling:“You’re an angel I’m a devil We’ll probably meet somewhere in between”

Gross.

The album is described as “deliciously genre-free”. This is silly. It’s at least as silly as Thursday deciding they wanted a name that didn’t imply any particlar genre, and then named themselves after a friggin’ day of the week.

Upcrunching your distortion is not going to improve tired-sounding guitar. It will only produce crunchy tired sounding guitar, and who wants that? In fact, there are parallels between Fragile Future and The Black Parade. Emo is not arena rock, and it never will be.

Fragile Future seems to be following the trend of third-wave emo bands to move away from the pop punk influence that created the subgenre, and towards a more genericised rock. This trend, while perhaps ensuring they don’t appear to be kicking a dead horse, is not doing the bands any favours. Even emo purists who scoffed at the advent of third wave had to admit: these guys were on to something. The music was fun, it was danceable, the kids were into it. By slowing things down and removing the kind of absurd histrionics, there’s not much fun and dance left. There just are no tracks on Fragile Futures that you can dance around your kitchen to and be glad that noone is watching, because dude, that shit is embarrassing. Que sera.

So what does Fragile Future offer? Not a whole lot. If you don’t like emo, you’ll probably hate this less than other emo, but you’ll still hate it. If you do like emo, you’ll probably find it boring. Noone really wins here. Fragile Future sounds an awful lot like Hawthorne Heights trying to evolve their sound, and failing.The rest of the MySpace generation of emo bands: look out.

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