Sunday, May 27, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Sounds: Hawthorne Heights pounds out familiar loud, kid-friendly sound

The kids understand something about Hawthorne Heights that older folks don't get.

The band out of Dayton is truly a grass-roots phenomenon that is expected to debut at or near the top of the Billboard charts, selling an unprecedented (for a band on an independent label) 200,000 copies of "If Only You Were Lonely" before it ever hit the stores.

How to explain it? The band's formula starts with a relentless work ethic. It's on the road constantly, hitting Toledo a few weeks ago to kick off a year of touring; it uses the Internet in a savvy way through performances and Web sites, and its sound is perfectly safe - noisy, but melodic and familiar.

Good Charlotte and Fall Out Boy already trod the same creative ground as Hawthorne: staccato rhythms - these guys do not have a clue how to swing - lyrics that explore relationships at the high school sophomore level, and lots of full-throated screaming to prove they really mean it.

It sells even though critics hate it (maybe it sells because critics hate it), grown-ups find it dull, and there's a certain built-in authenticity to a band that makes its bones on the road playing loud guitars.

The kids get it, which makes Hawthorne Heights their band. They're not cute, they work for a relatively small company, and their m.o. is lots of time on the road hustling their music. By kicking down the traditional barrier between rock "stars" and their fans, Hawthorne Heights has become a success story even though its sound has yet to mature.


This collection pushed Manilow to the top of the album charts for the first time ever with a studio disc, and put songs associated with the McGuire Sisters, the Everly Brothers, and Bobby Darin front and center again. On 13 tracks crammed into 42 minutes, his readily recognizable voice fits smoothly with the understated and orchestrated arrangements. There are no rough edges as Manilow performs "Unchained Melody," "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing," "Young At Heart," and "Beyond The Sea." Are these the greatest songs of the Fifties? It hardly matters. They make a flawlessly packaged, silkily produced collection of memories that has struck a chord.


The problem with Spyro Gyra, as this album seems to suggest, is that the group is sounding a lot more mainstream pop as the years go by and a lot less like those wildly unconventional, avant garde, and mind-bending heroes of the 1970s, Weather Report and Return to Forever. The group is still capable of producing acceptable modern jazz, and incorporates Latin, Caribbean, African, and Brazilian sounds to complement its electronica and rhythm and blues. But there's something missing. Or maybe it was never really there.


Seven musicians with a long history of helping well-known artists apply their talents to an assortment of obscure country tunes on this remarkable album, making the songs more memorable than they were 50 and 60 years ago. The band members take turns handling the lead vocals and apply their considerable instrumental skills on piano, bass, guitars, and drums. The result is a very fine album of lively music, ranging from up-tempo to ballads, all with a contemporary, barroom flavor.


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